There’s a fierce debate among business owners that dates back to the dawn of time (well, almost). In this grudge match, there seems to be no gray area. Both sides have argued for years about their position, making valid points and sound arguments backed by personal experience.
No, we’re not talking about politics, sports teams, or even pick-up truck brands. In the debate over whether to install PCs or Macs in the office, small business owners take sides—often stubbornly so.
That’s certainly the case for Ian Aronovich, the CEO of GovernmentAuctions.org, a site designed to help customers find good deals on government-seized merchandise.
Landing firmly on the PC side, Aronovich says you won’t find a Mac in his company’s offices. “The main reason is cost,” says Aronovich. “We would love to have a ton of Apple products in the office, but in reality, they are just way too expensive to purchase and upkeep. In addition, the Mac programs and accessories are priced too high for a small to medium-sized business. When it comes down to it, we can successfully run all of our business operations through PCs.”
Most of their PCs run Windows or Linux. They usually buy systems for about $300-$400 each, which is not even in the ballpark for even the most basic Mac computer. (The cheapest Mac is the Mini, which starts at about $600; Mac laptops usually run closer to $1000.)
What the experts say
Rob Enderle, the principal analyst at Enderle Group in San Jose, says Macs are usually the purview of creative agencies, not small dotcom start-ups on a budget. He says those who choose Macs are craftsmen who care about the aesthetics of the computer, not the chips inside.
According to IDC data, the Mac is more popular in smaller companies—but not by much: about 3 percent market share compared to 2 percent share at larger companies (2%).
Buehler says business owners typically weigh whether they will manage the computers internally or externally, and what executives and employees prefer. He says it’s no longer true that Apple products are harder to integrate into an office networking environment.
However, some start-ups have found that an all-Apple office is not advantageous, he says. “If the start-up has dreams of long-term expansion or acquisition, a mixed or all-PC environment is usually perceived as less of an integration effort on the part of an acquirer,” says IDC analyst Steve Buehler.
Evolving Mac vs. PC debate
The idea that creative companies prefer Macs is starting to change, says Enderle and in both directions—Mac shops are going PC, and vice versa. And creative companies often abandon the favored Mac platform if it means saving money on software.
Tori Keyes is the CEO of Plastick Media in North Hollywood, Calif., a start-up with five employees. She says her company has stuck with the Mac for years, but has now decided to start looking at PCs as a possible supplement. The main draw: a new Web development suite by Microsoft called Web Matrix, a free all-in-one suite. “WebMatrix will require a huge change in workflow for us because we're so used to working on Macs here, but the reality is the Web Matrix software has the potential of incrementally increasing our workflow when it comes to Web development,” she says. “The challenges will be getting people used to the ease of use on the Mac readjusted to the more complex workings of a PC.”
There are also stories about traditional PC shops siding with the Mac, says Enderle. In the health profession, for example, he says doctors in clinics are starting to have a voice about which platform is used for operations—and the doctors are the ones paying the bills. Partly to the chagrin of IT staff, Enderle says more clinics and hospitals are starting to install Mac computers.
I used to be a PC. Now I’m a Mac.
Another surprising development in the Mac vs. PC debate is when a company that provides services for the PC enterprise computing market decides to go with Mac computers.
Jim Kurtowicz is the CEO of Serac Technologies, a five-year-old company that provides consulting and B2B services for Oracle. Kurtowicz says he has used PC computers his entire life. Yet, when he started Serac, he found that the PC computers were not reliable enough. He does not have an internal IT staff or a help desk, nor did he have the time to provide tech support to his staff. “I wasted a considerable amount of time fixing PC-related issues rather than focusing on the business at hand. I switched to a Mac and have never looked back,” he says.
Now Serac Technologies uses only Mac computers. When employees do have support issues, they head off to an Apple store nearby and talk to one of the store employees. “The one drawback is that there is some occasional and minor software incompatibilities where we are looking for a software solution only to find that one we want is not supported on Mac. This is becoming increasingly rare and has never in any way prevented us from doing anything important,” he says.
Enderle says the Mac vs. PC debate will continue raging for some time, although there is hope on the horizon: The trend to run business software on the Web has made the Mac vs. PC debate less heated. There’s a shift in business, he says, to meet the needs of the individual employee. That means both platforms could peacefully co-exist—at least until someone with a better argument comes along.