Every week I hear the same thing: “We have been a Windows-only business/school/organization for years, but now we’re letting our employees choose, and a lot of them are choosing Macs.” You’re going to need to know some things. A LOT of things. But here’s the big one:
Everything you know about supporting Windows is going to be flipped upside-down.
Apple is the only computer company that makes their own hardware and OS. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. I happen to think the good features far outweigh the bad, but that’s just one guy’s opinion. The good:
- Apple’s have the highest ROI and lowest repair costs of any major computer brand. Apples tend to last longer than PCs (the last study I saw claimed most corporate PCs are replaced every 3 years on average, Macs, 5 years), and despite the perception, it’s really easy to upgrade the RAM in any Mac (The hard drive, usually less so).
- The buck stops here: No longer will you call Dell and be told “that’s a Microsoft problem”, then call Microsoft and hear “That’s a Dell problem.” Apple covers it all. And if you have AppleCare, Apple provides some of the best support in the business.
- Easy upgrades: There’s just ONE version of Mac OS X, and ONE version of Mac OS X Server. There’s no starter edition, business edition, deluxe gluten-free edition to worry about. All the languages and localizations are built-in, its 32/64 bit, and there’s no licensing or serial number to worry about. DOwnload the installer, install, done.
- Drivers? We don’ need no stinkin’ drivers: Well, actually you still do, but they’re built into the OS. So if you need to wipe a Mac and reinstall from scratch, all you need to do is reinstall the OS and you’re done.
- Licensing software through the new Mac App store still has some problems. Hopefully Apple will figure them out, but right now it’s still a bit of a problem.
- No downgrades. Because the OS contains all the drivers, each new Mac Model is dependent on the newest version of the OS. That means, if you bought a new MacBook Pro last month, it came with 10.7.4, and that’s the earliest version it can run with. If you are going to wipe and restore your Mac, the rule of thumb is, it needs the version of the OS it shipper with, or newer. A lot of companies want to keep everyone on one OS until they are good and ready to upgrade. Unfortunately, if you hire new people and buy them Macs, they are going to be on a variety of OS versions.
Case study: I was talking with a tech at a large university last June. They were uniformly on Snow Leopard, OS 10.6. They wanted everyone on the same OS, to make support easier, and so no one got jealous that someone in the next cubicle had a newer OS than they did. They were planning to hire new faculty in August and buy them new Macs, but Lion was coming out in July, and they new all new Macs they would buy in August would come with Lion pre-installed. He wanted to know if they could downgrade, and I had to give them the bad news. He wanted to know his options. I told him, he could buy the new Macs early, before Lion came out, and keep them in a closet, he could buy used Macs that August, or he could buy new Macs with Lion, and deal.
So the thing that makes Macs so relatively stable and secure and convenient, is a double-edged sword.
I know what a few of you are going to say: some Macs CAN be downgraded. Yes, its true, in some rare cases. Case in point: If you walk into an Apple Store today, and buy a new iMac (you shouldn’t, but he way: they’re overdue for an upgrade) it will come with Mountain Lion pre-installed. But that iMac hasn’t been upgraded since last year, it can happily run Lion. SO yes, in this particular case, this particular Mac can be downgraded to Lion, but it’s the exception, not the rule.
Think about OS releases when buying new Macs for your employees. With new OS versions coming out every year instead of every two years, this is going to happen even more often. My personal opinion is just roll with it, upgrade your users as a new version comes out. The upgrades go much more smoothly than Windows upgrades do, and people won’t be lost under a pile of dramatically new features, OS X upgrades are much more incremental.