Is PC Still Politically Correct?

by Colin Berkshire

Colin here.

In some of our locations I have IT responsibility. You know, those PC boxes on everybody’s desk. I hate those PC boxes.

They are all “needy” and they have a multitude of problems. I lay awake at night over virus scanning and whether we are backing up the right systems on the right schedule. Every location needs some trusted guru and there is so much variability that it is hard to ensure that things are under control. Really, I hate those PC boxes.

One of my staff came to me with an interesting proposition: Switch to Apple.

Now, we have been a dedicated PC only shop for over 30 years. Exclusively PC. And, in the US the only PCs we have purchased in the past 20 years have been Dells. We’re highly standardized and we have standard builds that we roll out. In other countries its quite frankly just a hodge podge mess that keeps me awake at night. But switching to Apple isn’t on our radar.

The first realization was that many, many workstations can be converted to iPads. Customer Service and many functions only use web-based clients. An ipad mounted to a block is really perfect for their needs. Some stations need bluetooth keyboards, and some don’t even need that. The iPads update themselves, they don’t get malware, they can be locked down physically and in configurations. Best of all: they require no backups, no administration, no planning, no anything. For $500 we have something that we can install and forget. They are a dream. The ipads do one other piece of magic in this design: They eliminate the desktop phone. Install a softphone on them and they link right up to our non-PBX. So we have zero phone hardware expense, too!

Where people have a need for a bigger screen and for more power, the Mac Mini comes in at $600. You rip out the old PC box and plug the same keyboard and mouse and monitor into the Mac Mini and you are good to go. The Mac Mini is great because it is far less “needy” than a Windows system. There are no Windows Upgrades to buy (at about $150 per upgrade in the corporate world.) They are fast and powerful, and the Office-like word processing suite is free free free. Because we have moved so many in-house functions to be web based our users don’t really have many apps that demand Windows.

The nice thing about the Mac Mini in our testing has been that backups are trivial to use, trivial to set up, automatic, and safe. Re-installing the operating system takes about an hour including all of the patches and updates. (Windows systems are consuming the better part of a day.) Those little Mac Mini boxes are everything an aspiring middle-manager needs.

We have a deal with the local Apple store that if we buy the $149 AppleCare Protection Plan they will do all of the work to reinstall the operating system whenever we want. Their business liaison says we can just pop the Mac Minis into a flat-rate Priority Mail envelope and send them to the store and they will re-install the operating system any time we desire it. They will fix anything, they will repair the software and hardware. I don’t know if it is worth it, but it gives me an absolute fixed cost number to work with.

The analysis I am looking at says that the Mac Mini is cheaper than a crappy PC over a 3-year life. After three years our thinking is to give the Mac Mini’s away to the employees and buy a new one.

I don’t know if we will end up moving forward with this. But it is intriguing. I’m all for cutting costs and especially for cutting labor. We have been running about $40 per PC per month inIT labor when you average it out. Those Mac Mini’s look like they are far under half that much.

The real eye opener is that it seems that the Microsoft Monopoly is over. Steve Balmer got out just in time. Of course, it is the next CEO that will pay for Ballmer’s mess.

So, what do you think of expunging our organization of PCs?