PBS columnist: IT hates Macs because ‘Macs reduce IT head count’

“Why aren’t Apple Macintosh computers more popular in large mainstream organizations? Whatever the gigahertz numbers say, Macintoshes are comparable in performance to Windows or Linux machines. Whatever the conventional wisdom or the Microsoft marketing message, Macs aren’t dramatically more expensive to buy and on a Total Cost of Ownership basis they are probably cheaper. Nobody would argue that Macs are harder to use. Clearly, they are easier to use, especially on a network. So what’s the problem? Why do Macs seem to exist only in media outfits,” asks Robert X. Cringely for PBS?

Cringely writes, “Apple is clearly wondering the same thing because the company recently surveyed owners of their xServe 1U boxes asking what Apple could do to make them more attractive? For those who own xServes, they are darned attractive — small, powerful, energy-efficient, easy to configure and manage, and offering dramatic savings for applications like streaming. Yet, Apple appears to be having a terrible time selling the things.”

“I used to think it came down to nerd ego. Macs were easy to use, so they didn’t get the respect of nerds who measured their testosterone levels by how fluently they could navigate a command line interface.


  1. I used to work for a company that employed 150 people. We all had computers on our desks. The IT personnel at the company hated Macs. One of them told me that it was simply a matter of economics – for him. Macs didn’t break down as much and they would have less to do and hence no job security. Oh yes, this was 5 years ago!

  2. About ten years ago I was running a department computing facility at a university. We used to pool research money to maintain the computing infrastructure and support about 150 users. When researchers at other universities were caught by NSF using research money for junkets and yachts they clamped down and we couldn’t pool our grant money anymore.

    So we ended up needing to analyze how our resources were being used, by platform, so we could switch to a chargeback scheme instead of a per capita fee. We had VMS, unix, Windows and Mac users to support. (remember this was the early 90’s). The results weren’t too suprizing. The VMS machines required the most man-hours per machine. Followed by Windows, unix and way, way down were Macs. When a new machine arrived we had to get it set up, install an OS and get it on the network. VMS machines took a day while unix and NT took about six hours. How long for the Macs ? About 30 minutes. Really.

    Eventually we had to cut IT staff and we cut out all the specialists and kept guys who could do a little unix, Windows and Macs. They spent most of their time on PC stuff. When a new faculty member arrived we pushed them to the Mac so they could spend more money on research and less on support.

    I did some consulting at a large consulting firm for a while and when I would go talk to the IT guys I was supporting they would tell you flat out that they didn’t like Macs because they feared for their jobs. They plugged them in and they never touched them again. That’s why IT staffs hate Macs.

  3. My company is run entirley on Macs. CAD, Filemaker, Flexware, FastTrack, Photoshop, Palms, AppleWorks, MS Office, Digital Photo Archiving, Safari Web ordering. We are not an advertising company. We are a high end construction company with about 60 networked macs. We have no IT department. I am in charge of sales and I run IT in my very spare time. I spend hardly any time or $$$ mainting the network. It’s awesome. Any company that dismisses Macs in business is out of their minds. The employess easily learn how to use the computers and they very rarely break down. It’s a complete joke that Apple gets pushed out of business computing!

  4. Not only is this not bullshit, it is verifiable. More than one independent study has shown that in a business environment, Macs are cheaper in the long haul, take far less staff to maintain, are more secure (than Windows), and are easier to use. These are facts. All this author is doing is figuring out why IT departments aren’t responding to those facts…and his conclusion is probably dead on. Why else wouldn’t more IT depts move to Macs in the face of all the research showing their superiority?….self-interest, of course.

  5. This is not bullshit. I once helped manage a network of 500 computers. About half were Macs, there was 1 guy managing the macs (me) and 5 managing the PCs. And this was in the day before network based management like SMS/Active Driectory and ARD/OpenDirectory were deployed.

  6. The guys stating it’s bullshit is not doubt an MCSE (as well as many other useless cert’s)
    Laugh or pity him/her – they know it’s true.
    The money wasted on these patches and viri is INCREDIBLE – I’m not worried about my systems or my clients though.

  7. This guy is dead on. He also makes great points in the full article about what the end result will be with all of this outsourcing to India. In the end, companies like Microsoft are going to lose BIG TIME as a result of it, just wait and see.

  8. For one it’s bullshit because he assumes the first level support has any say in what pieces of equipment a company can buy. It’s only the first level support jobs that are possibly at stake when you would switch to mac. The jobs of those who actually have a say in what to buy or not, are not at all at risk.

    Two, it’s simply not true that unix people hate the mac. Well, atleast not since mac os x, you can see the immense uptake when reading o’reilly, slashdot or ars technica forums. They didn’t like mac os 9, rightly so, it was a piece of crap, but os x is decent. Heck, wasn’t there a story some time ago how most sun employees use mac os x on the desktop?

    Three, some of the reasons of a large switch to linux are:
    Very low TCO and licensing price. I seriously doubt that Apple does better.

    No vendor lockin. One of the prime reasons they switch away from
    Microsoft. Apple is even worse here, not only software but also hardware lockin.

    No reputation on the enterprise level. Solaris, AIX, HP-UX, Linux, FreeBSD have proven themselves for several years to be extremely stable, very secure, scalable and high performant. Enterprise level applications such as volume management, cluster technologies,.. are available. Apple just doesn’t have that kind of trackrecord or the sort of applications.

    Looking at the corporate desktop on the other hand.. All it takes to switch from windows to linux/freebsd is a single cd or network connection. You need completely new hardware to switch to the mac. The hardware itself is allot more expensive here, not just a little bit. You don’t need a 64 bit processor for a desktop that just needs to have a webbrowser, e-mail client and an office suite. Apple does not yet offer something in the 500$ price range.

    Apple laptops are doing allot better here, and there has been a significant interest in them. Why else did Steve Jobs announce VPN over IPSec and FileVault (and the not announced mail encryption) Not for the home users, but because corporate road warriors were asking for it.

    I don’t know where he gets the idea that you need about the same number of people for a linux setup as for a windows setup. Quite frankly it’s bullshit. It’s reduced by a factor of five in the first level support alone, see the city of largo as an example.

  9. hakles makes good points, but whether the jobs of those who make decisions are at stake is not the point. In any business, staff/budget money = power/influence. Any IT Manager would like hassle free products (makes their life easier) but not to TOO hassle free.

  10. The author has a point, but really fails to consider the big reason why Windows is the dominate OS. Simple, the 800 pound gorilla. Apple’s never had the kind of marketing muscle that Microsoft’s enjoyed. At first, partnered with IBM and their (once more so) powerful prestige in computing and, more importantly, relationships with the people who make computing buying decisions (the board room, upper management). Microsoft knew, and knows, how to play the game. It has never been about who has a better product, or conspiracy theories about economics (Hey, the guys and gals making the multi-million dollar tech investments – that most everyone else blindly follows – don�t give a rats ass about making jobs safe for techies. They make decisions based on relationships and slick sales ads and presentations). Microsoft and its compatible hardware are dominate because of a (ruthless?) marketing and sales strategy. Nothing more.

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