Steve Jobs Outfit “Snow Leopard goes head to head with Windows 7” This is the title of an article published at eWEEK some days ago. It is a classic example of a review comparing Windows and Mac OS X. I usually find OS comparisons a bit childish because they remind me of sandbox discussions of who has the coolest tricycle. However, I can't keep myself from commenting on this article. I know that many IT decision makers were influenced by this type of analysis when the Vista bashing flu was spreading fast. Journalists whose brains were infected by this virus tended to recommend giving up on Windows entirely and switching to a really cool operating system, which is usually presented by a cool CEO with stylish sports shoes, stylish jeans and a stylish black shirt.

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Well, stylish or not stylish, cool or not cool, I am sure those organizations who followed this advice have regretted it by now. The aforementioned eWEEK article focuses not on the coolness feature, but mostly on OS features, sales numbers, and similar arguments. In my view, neither style nor OS features should have any influence on the decision of which OS you deploy next. It is interesting to note that most of those articles don't even mention the only factor that is really important when it comes to the decision of which OS is the best choice for the corporate network.

As an IT pro, you already know what I am talking about. It is not the operating system itself that really matters; the only thing that counts is the ecosystem in which the OS is embedded. Independent software vendors (ISVs), independent hardware vendors (IHVs), independent service providers (ISPs), and your partners, all live in this ecosystem. If you stand outside, things will get complicated and usually expensive. Microsoft's biggest achievement is not Windows or Office; it is the ecosystem they have built up over the years with much diligence. Apple was never interested in such an ecosystem because they always wanted to be the center of the universe, often resulting in rude behavior directed against partners, the media, and even customers.

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I must admit I haven't touched a Mac for quite a while. I am sure Apple has added many great new features since then. But I am not really interested in those features. If they are good, then Microsoft will add an enhanced adoption sooner or later to Windows anyway. To abandon an ecosystem just because of some gimmick features, or because you want to be a cool Mac, is highly irrational.

15 Comments
  1. moiecoute 12 years ago

    Or you could look at this as;

    Vista SP3 v OSX Service Pack 10.6

    ........ cynicism intended :p

    On a more serious note we are noticing a significant proportion of our students are bringing in Netbooks and MAC vs Microsoft based laptops when they study. The coolness factor tends to be what they are buying on and we all know how much more expensive MACs are compared to PCs. For the first time ever we have had to train one of our people on supporting MAC.

  2. Scott 12 years ago

    "For the first time ever we have had to train one of our people on supporting MAC"

    The issue isn't with Mac or Windows, but it does bug me how many SysAdmins have buried their heads in the sand when it comes to supporting OS X. While we may have a preference for WindowsOS or Linux for that matter, because it is what we know, we can't forget that our jobs are often to enable our people to use the best platform to make them productive. For some people, that IS the Mac. Mac is worthy of our attention because it is a solid OS that works well for many people. You won't get any Mac Fanboy opinions from me, but I do have a Mac and it is great in many areas. But so is Win7. So, to each his own.

  3. Kent 12 years ago

    Couldn't agree more, Michael. Those journalist just don't have the clue how corporate network system works. And those who listen to these advise are even more clueless.

    Cheers.

  4. Lukas Beeler 12 years ago

    Well, i have to admit that i like Macs. I recommend them to to everyone that is somehow allowed to demand free tech support from me (immediate family).

    Due to the lack of Bonzai Buddy and MSN Plus, Users are much less inclined to install crapware (because none of it works).

    So that's good. What Apple also got right is e.G. moving from one machine to another. Around christmas, i migrated an iBook G4 to a MacBook. All i needed was a network cable and roughly 5 hours of waiting. All the programs were migrated. No need to reinstall anything. And this is a procedure any reasonably intelligent end user could do.

    Yep, Windows Easy Transfer and USMT exist, and they work, but they have much more limitations than the stuff from Apple.

    In my opinion, Apple delivers a great consumer experience, mostly because they have entirely focused on that.

    I also have an iPhone, after HTC pissed me off with the Touch Diamond.

  5. Dustin Harper 12 years ago

    (Note: I am an avid Microsoft supporter, but try to be non-biased in my opinions, although I must emphasize the TRY. 😉 )

    I agree that many Mac users jumped on the Microsoft bashing (Vista Bashing flu) and bought Mac's. I don't have any issues with Mac, I actually like using it. But, it doesn't have anything that would make me want to switch.

    I use Linux for a lot of my needs (servers), and Windows for a lot, too. If Mac had more to offer at a DECENT PRICE, I'd look more into it. I won't pay a price premium to be locked into my hardware. Personally, I am an enthusiast. I switch out hardware, play games, and do it seamlessly with Windows. Mac just won't do what I want it to.

  6. moiecoute 12 years ago

    Scott,

    Don't get me wrong i'm not anti MAC. Just pointing out that their market share is noticeably increased.

    I am a long term MS fan and Windows 7 looks great but now use Ubuntu as my home system......... with Mac OSX themes 🙂

  7. Lowell 12 years ago

    Excellent perspective, Michael. And especially as Microsoft makes cool tech available for even the small business market, such as terminal services, SharePoint, App-V, and builds integration nearly everywhere (i.e. SharePoint and Windows 7/2008 R2 and branch caching, for example). Of course, some small businesses (and medium) are so poorly setup in the IT area that they don't even realize a fraction of the value they could from having someone who knows and can implement wholistic solutions.

  8. Scott, let's assume for a moment that your people can get all the software and hardware they need for a Mac (which is usually not the case), even then I doubt that they will be more "productive" with OS X than with Windows. The extra costs to support Macs in a corporate environment can usually not be justified. Therefore, I can understand every CIO who bans Macs from the corporate network. The fact that OS X is a solid OS and works well for many people is no reason at all to support Macs. Most organizations can't live without Windows and to support one desktop OS with its different versions keeps admins busy enough.

    moiecoute, I can understand your problem very well. You can't tell students what computers they should buy. However, I somehow think that the Mac hype will be over soon considering that Windows 7 is now everybody's darling and that most students simply can't afford a Mac.

    Lukas, your argument about "crapware" sounds a bit strange. In my opinion the variety of available applications is the biggest advantage of Windows. Of course, the bigger an ecosystem the more trash is available. But what would you tell someone who says that the good thing about totalitarian countries is that people can only buy a small number of books. In western countries bookshops have so much "crapbooks" in their shelves. I agree with your second argument though. If OS X has a feature which is important for you, it makes perfectly sense to use a Mac at home. However, this argument is usually not valid for organizations (see my reply to Scott).

    Dustin, the high price is probably the most important Mac feature. Many people only buy Macs because of the price. If everyone could afford a Mac they wouldn't be interested. So don't expect Apple to reduce prices anytime soon. They certainly don't want to lose this clientele.

    Lowell, yes I should have mentioned the integration argument. Especially admins value Microsoft's great management tools. The whole System Center product family has to be considered as a part of Windows even though you have to pay extra for the licenses. This money is better invested than if spent for a shining logo.

  9. Le juppes 12 years ago

    macs are expensive yes,
    but not expensive as sysadmins

    to the press:
    If you have a mac you dont need the 100 best tuning tips , no how to plan your backups
    , no how to stay secure , no recoverydiscs needed...no PCmagazine^^

  10. Le juppes, what makes Macs so expensive for the corporate network is not the overpriced hardware alone, but the lack of powerful management tools as we have them in the Windows world. Thus you need more Mac admins for a network of the same size. Furthermore, Mac admins are more expensive.

  11. Doug 12 years ago

    Dang, this article was just getting good then it ended. 🙁

  12. Lowell 12 years ago

    Michael... Bang on. Besides being pretty much impossible to use Mac PCs in most corporate environments due to inflexibility and incompatibility, there are very few management tools for working with large numbers of Mac PCs at an environment.

    Furthermore, Apple lacks a proper security team/infrastructure to answer or deal with the hard questions that Microsoft has to answer when dealing with large enterprises, the military, and government infrastructures. I hope Apple gets a move on in these critical areas because I think they could really offer a compelling corporate solution. But until then the Mac continues to be primarily a consumer product, or for use in small or niche segments of the business world.

  13. Lowell 12 years ago

    Let me clarify... "pretty much impossible to replace all Windows PCs with Mac PCs in corporate environments due to inflexibility and incompatibility."

  14. Lowell, the problem for Apple is that for more flexibility they have to give up their exclusiveness. They would just become a second Microsoft. And that's exactly what they don't want.

  15. Lowell 12 years ago

    Michael... Exactly. I maintain that if you decrease flexibility, decrease compatibility, decrease affordability (more expensive), you can get increased reliability. Can't have it all. And of course, since Apple's a hardware company they wouldn't want to open up and increase compatibility and flexibility to allow their OS to be installed on non-Mac PCs (i.e. Psystar) as they wouldn't make as much of the huge killing on their hardware. After all, most people don't buy Mac PCs today, in part because of their outrageous pricing... if you could buy a Mac PC that wasn't made by Apple you could get it for a lot less.

    So to bring it all around... I'm thankful that Microsoft is open with Windows, allowing me to install it on almost any sort of hardware (even Apple hardware). Otherwise I couldn't afford to have the number of computers in my house, for my kids, etc. unless I was filthy rich.

    And Windows 7 breathes new life into systems currently running XP. So unlike Apple's decision to exclude non-Intel Mac PCs from their latest iteration, Microsoft is reaching further back and making the latest operating system efficient enough to run on even more computers than before.

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