Even During a Recession, Small Businesses Still Should Consider Macbooks

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I was talking to someone recently who just took a new job at a small web-company. She has been a Windows user all her life but she asked me what she should get in her new job. They were buying her a new computer.

Naturally, I suggested the new Macbook that Apple announced yesterday. The same thing occurred when my dad took a new job with a non-profit and considered getting a Mac, but it was nixed due to concerns over business application and utility.

To be clear, there is no better time to look at Apple laptops than now because the total cost of ownership is usually lower given that in most business environments, the selling point is Microsoft Office and Exchange/Active Directory integration.

Most purchasing managers will get caught in the trap of looking at the higher price tag for the hardware and assume that means that the TCO is higher as well. Let’s break it down though:

Dell Vostro 2510 Apple Macbook 2.0Ghz
Initial Pricepoint $899 $1299
CPU Equivalency Upgrade (2.0 Ghz) $75 $0
Office Software MS Office Pro 2007 – $320 iWork ’08 -$79
Extended Warranty ProSupport (3y) – $268 AppleCare (3y) – $249
PDF Creation Adobe Acrobat – $449 Built in Support – $0
Total Cost of Ownership $2011 $1627

Five Hundred Dollars in difference for the average small business. Not everyone needs Adobe Acrobat, but a lot do! Some companies are inclined to buy MS Office for Mac, but it sucks and iWork has almost universal compatibility. Mail.app has Exchange capability, or the Exchange server can turn on IMAP functionality to make mail clients other than Outlook work better across the board.

If IT purchasing managers take a step back and look at the reality of the purchasing, a hard look at Apple products is a strong move to tighten those belts.

  • http://epistolary.org/rob/ Rob Carlson

    There are tons of free and open PDF creators for Windows. Assuming you use the free version and an application like CutePDF, your Dell TCO goes down to 1,562. This seems like a $449 straw man to me.

    • http://technosailor.com Aaron Brazell

      I know of very few companies who don’t use Adobe Acrobat. Do you?

      • http://highearthorbit.com/ Andrew Turner

        They frequently use Acrobat reader – but comparatively very few people publish PDF’s with Acrobat.

      • http://kevindewalt.com kevindewalt

        Sorry Aaron, I have to respectfully agree that this is a straw man as well. Use Google Apps and you don’t need most of things on the Dell list. And, yes, I know companies that are using CutePDF.

        I can’t wait until a non-OS laptop comes out with a keyboard, screen, broadband access, and Chrome.

        • http://technosailor.com Aaron Brazell

          What’s the market share? To be fair, I can’t answer that either, but my gut instinct, and I think you have to agree, is that companies who do need PDF creation tend to use Adobe Acrobat.

  • http://epistolary.org/rob/ Rob Carlson

    There are tons of free and open PDF creators for Windows. Assuming you use the free version and an application like CutePDF, your Dell TCO goes down to 1,562. This seems like a $449 straw man to me.

  • http://technosailor.com Aaron Brazell

    I know of very few companies who don't use Adobe Acrobat. Do you?

  • http://highearthorbit.com/ Andrew Turner

    While it would be nice to do away with MS Office on Mac – the reality is enough people use edge-case functionality, such as change tracking and styling – that Pages just isn’t good enough. Also, they’ll probably by “Home” addition assuming they’re not using Accounting, Access, or Publisher. (which iWork doesn’t include either)

    Another factor could include iMovie/iDVD for media authoring.

    • http://technosailor.com Aaron Brazell

      I use track changes quite effectively with Pages (iWork) in an MS Office
      environment. And who uses Access? And Quicken exists at the same pricepoints
      on both. Quickbooks exists on both… I don’t see your point. :)

      • http://highearthorbit.com/ Andrew Turner

        My Point was that users wouldn’t buy the overpriced MS Office Pro for exactly the reasons you pointed out. They would buy the much cheaper Office Home.

        I am a Mac user – but I think your overall summary is a little skewed.

  • doylealbee

    Aaron:
    As I type this comment on my MacBook Pro, I couldn’t agree more. We recently moved our company from PC to Mac, and things work better and people are generally more satisfied.

    One thing: I tried to go to iWork, and I really liked it (I still won’t touch PowerPoint under any circumstances in favor of Keynote), but if you manipulate a lot of Word docs, saving in Pages, then exporting, can be cumbersome. I probably open, edit and save 20-30 Word docs a day, and switched back to Word for Mac just to avoid the extra step, which can be a pain. If you don’t work in and out of docs that often, Pages is superior.

    Thanks for showing the CFOs what the rest of us suspected (or hoped was true!).

    Doyle Albee
    http://www.metzgerblog.com

    • http://technosailor.com Aaron Brazell

      Absolutely agreed on the annoyance of Exporting in iWork. But it’s just
      that, an annoyance. And for me, it’s just part of my workflow now. Pass the
      post on to any CFOs or IT Managers you can think of who need to have their
      thinking changed.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/cityofbrass Aziz Poonawalla

    doPDF is a freeware application for PDF creation. So that shaves $449 off the estimate right there. And you’re comparing iLife to Office Pro? a fair comparison would be Office for Mac instead.

    • http://technosailor.com Aaron Brazell

      Again, I don’t know of any companies who use a free PDF creator over Adboe.
      Maybe if they are in the non-profit space. But Acrobat is justified as “cost
      of doing business”. Plus, it’s the geekier who know about those options and
      the decision makers are not usually the geeky among us.

  • azizhp

    doPDF is a freeware application for PDF creation. So that shaves $449 off the estimate right there. And you're comparing iLife to Office Pro? a fair comparison would be Office for Mac instead.

  • ajturner

    They frequently use Acrobat reader – but comparatively very few people publish PDF's with Acrobat.

  • http://technosailor.com Aaron Brazell

    I use track changes quite effectively with Pages (iWork) in an MS Officeenvironment. And who uses Access? And Quicken exists at the same pricepointson both. Quickbooks exists on both… I don't see your point. :)

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/cityofbrass Aziz Poonawalla

    many compaies use PDF. In fact, all of them. But few need to buy Adobe to do it. At any rate, the embedded PDF creation functionality in Mac OS X is not equivalent to the total package of functionality you get with Adobe’s flagship software, either, so this is another apples-oranges (heh) comparison, in addition to the point I make about Office below.

  • azizhp

    many compaies use PDF. In fact, all of them. But few need to buy Adobe to do it. At any rate, the embedded PDF creation functionality in Mac OS X is not equivalent to the total package of functionality you get with Adobe's flagship software, either, so this is another apples-oranges (heh) comparison, in addition to the point I make about Office below.

  • http://technosailor.com Aaron Brazell

    Absolutely agreed on the annoyance of Exporting in iWork. But it's justthat, an annoyance. And for me, it's just part of my workflow now. Pass thepost on to any CFOs or IT Managers you can think of who need to have theirthinking changed.

  • http://technosailor.com Aaron Brazell

    Again, I don't know of any companies who use a free PDF creator over Adboe.Maybe if they are in the non-profit space. But Acrobat is justified as “costof doing business”. Plus, it's the geekier who know about those options andthe decision makers are not usually the geeky among us.

  • http://kevindewalt.com Kevin Dewalt

    Sorry Aaron, I have to respectfully agree that this is a straw man as well. Use Google Apps and you don't need most of things on the Dell list. And, yes, I know companies that are using CutePDF. I can't wait until a non-OS laptop comes out with a keyboard, screen, broadband access, and Chrome.

  • http://technosailor.com Aaron Brazell

    What's the market share? To be fair, I can't answer that either, but my gut instinct, and I think you have to agree, is that companies who do need PDF creation tend to use Adobe Acrobat.

  • http://www.baltimoremick.com/blog jjthomas

    Actually, lack of true Exchange support–be it small or large business–is the big factor here. Additionally, any smart small business manager has already locked up some sort of licensing agreement for their business to make Office more cost-effective.

    IMAP capability does not give you fully-featured Exchange features. Exchange is a groupware solution, as you know. Turning on IMAP merely means I can get email, it does not mean I get my calendar and its appointments. In some sense, that’s a business FAIL.

    As Rob said, there are many other free alternative PDF creation products available for Windows–including a fairly well-featured open-source product.

  • http://www.baltimoremick.com/blog jjthomas

    Actually, lack of true Exchange support–be it small or large business–is the big factor here. Additionally, any smart small business manager has already locked up some sort of licensing agreement for their business to make Office more cost-effective. IMAP capability does not give you fully-featured Exchange features. Exchange is a groupware solution, as you know. Turning on IMAP merely means I can get email, it does not mean I get my calendar and its appointments. In some sense, that's a business FAIL. As Rob said, there are many other free alternative PDF creation products available for Windows–including a fairly well-featured open-source product.

  • http://chrisbachmann.com Chris Bachmann

    There’s a plugin for Office 2007 that will save to a PDF. It’s free from Microsoft’s site. I’m not sure why it wasn’t in the official release, but it’s easy to get and install.

  • chrisbachmann

    There's a plugin for Office 2007 that will save to a PDF. It's free from Microsoft's site. I'm not sure why it wasn't in the official release, but it's easy to get and install.

  • ajturner

    My Point was that users wouldn't buy the overpriced MS Office Pro for exactly the reasons you pointed out. They would buy the much cheaper Office Home. I am a Mac user – but I think your overall summary is a little skewed.

  • http://www.technotheory.com/ Jared Goralnick

    Aaron, can’t disagree with you more this time. But I’ll first and foremost disagree on your comparisons for software and support.

    iWork doesn’t compare to MS Office 2007 in a business environment. If one were to get a Mac in a corporate environment, they’d likely still buy Office for any interoperability with, say, everyone else at the office. So that nixes that software…plus licensing agreements should make the price of Office much lower for a corporate user.

    Adobe Acrobat. Like everyone said here, on fewer than 1% of PC is the the paid version of Acrobat installed. Microsoft got sued by Adobe for having free (and awesome) PDF creation utilities built into Office in 2007, but they put it in on their anyways with a web download. It has extensibility that’s superior to the built in PDF writing on the Mac, too. For advanced PDF manipulation, both PC and Mac users would have to buy the identically priced Acrobat Standard or Professional for the Mac/PC.

    Also, Dell offers onsite Next Business Day support, but I don’t believe Apple does. Correct me if I’m wrong. If one doesn’t have a support contract for servicing their machines from an outside provider, this is a BIG BIG deal in businesses. I don’t want to spend half my day and schedule time with Apple Geniuses onsite…then wait for the part, etc. I’ve done this and it’s not fun. Dell shows up the next day with the part or ships it, plain and simple.

    Also, in a corporate environment that already supports PCs, they have standard SLAs with a separate MNS shop or through in-house tech support, which may or may not support Macs. So it should be a negligible cost to add a PC to the network, but may be a significant cost for a Mac if no one else knows how to support it. The support costs of integrating Macs + PCs that is often overlooked can be high. Not a fault of the Mac, but a cost nonetheless.

    The common argument to this is that one can install both Windows and Mac OS X on a Mac. But now the TCO is no longer an argument.

    If one buys a Mac it should be because they prefer a Mac or software that’s only available on a Mac, plain and simple. But in an environment that’s predominantly PC’s, it’s definitely not a cost saving.

    • http://technosailor.com Aaron Brazell

      Totally agree that many companies should not consider the Apple
      solution. That said, most ‘no’ answers are based on the pricepoint of
      hardware and in many cases, the TCO is actually cheaper and should be
      considered.

  • http://www.technotheory.com Jared Goralnick

    Aaron, can't disagree with you more this time. But I'll first and foremost disagree on your comparisons for software and support.iWork doesn't compare to MS Office 2007 in a business environment. If one were to get a Mac in a corporate environment, they'd likely still buy Office for any interoperability with, say, everyone else at the office. So that nixes that software…plus licensing agreements should make the price of Office much lower for a corporate user.Adobe Acrobat. Like everyone said here, on fewer than 1% of PC is the the paid version of Acrobat installed. Microsoft got sued by Adobe for having free (and awesome) PDF creation utilities built into Office in 2007, but they put it in on their anyways with a web download. It has extensibility that's superior to the built in PDF writing on the Mac, too. For advanced PDF manipulation, both PC and Mac users would have to buy the identically priced Acrobat Standard or Professional for the Mac/PC.Also, Dell offers onsite Next Business Day support, but I don't believe Apple does. Correct me if I'm wrong. If one doesn't have a support contract for servicing their machines from an outside provider, this is a BIG BIG deal in businesses. I don't want to spend half my day and schedule time with Apple Geniuses onsite…then wait for the part, etc. I've done this and it's not fun. Dell shows up the next day with the part or ships it, plain and simple.Also, in a corporate environment that already supports PCs, they have standard SLAs with a separate MNS shop or through in-house tech support, which may or may not support Macs. So it should be a negligible cost to add a PC to the network, but may be a significant cost for a Mac if no one else knows how to support it. The support costs of integrating Macs + PCs that is often overlooked can be high. Not a fault of the Mac, but a cost nonetheless.The common argument to this is that one can install both Windows and Mac OS X on a Mac. But now the TCO is no longer an argument.If one buys a Mac it should be because they prefer a Mac or software that's only available on a Mac, plain and simple. But in an environment that's predominantly PC's, it's definitely not a cost saving.

  • http://vinnie.me/ Vinnie

    Why the hell are you looking at a measly couple hundred bucks as the deciding factor?

    The real deciding factor should be the employee’s productivity on one vs the other. If I can get a task done in 4 hours on a PC or 3 hours on a Mac, and I do that task 4 times a week, and you pay me $50/hour, that’s $50 x 4 x 52 = $10,400 a year in employee productivity saved/regained. Same would go if a PC was faster for the task.

    The cost of hardware/software usually pales in comparison to the cost of personnel. If your technology decision-maker is so damn myopic that a couple hundred bucks on hardware is the determining factor they should be fired.

  • http://technosailor.com Aaron Brazell

    Totally agree that many companies should not consider the Applesolution. That said, most 'no' answers are based on the pricepoint ofhardware and in many cases, the TCO is actually cheaper and should beconsidered.

  • http://www.thatedeguy.com thatedeguy

    You can create PDFs with a little program called PDF Converter 5 Pro from Buy.com for $99. Throw in a copy of OpenOffice software and the Dell is cheaper than the Apple.

    I don’t buy it.

  • http://www.thatedeguy.com thatedeguy

    You can create PDFs with a little program called PDF Converter 5 Pro from Buy.com for $99. Throw in a copy of OpenOffice software and the Dell is cheaper than the Apple. I don't buy it.

  • http://www.petertdavis.com Peter Davis

    I didn’t know you were a fanboy. When did that happen?

  • http://www.petertdavis.com Peter Davis

    I didn't know you were a fanboy. When did that happen?

  • http://iaaxpage.com/ Iaax Page

    I really like the approach you’ve taken into prove the price specifications, cause at the end of the day, it is a yesterdays fact, that Mac is more expensive than PC, nevertheless you have succeeded on proving this concept wrong now a days.

    Great site by the way, this is my very fisrt time here and I already like it.

    Iaax Page
    http://iaaxpage.blogspot.com

  • cyberpage

    I really like the approach you've taken into prove the price specifications, cause at the end of the day, it is a yesterdays fact, that Mac is more expensive than PC, nevertheless you have succeeded on proving this concept wrong now a days.Great site by the way, this is my very fisrt time here and I already like it.Iaax Pagehttp://iaaxpage.blogspot.com

  • http://dcpatton.com/ dcpatton

    Interesting article and comments. A couple of things to consider:

    1. Open Office 3.0 for the Mac or Google Docs
    2. The faster startup (boot and hibernating) and lack of crashing OS can really increase productivity over time on the Mac. That can be very important for a small business.

  • http://dcpatton.com/ dcpatton

    Interesting article and comments. A couple of things to consider: 1. Open Office 3.0 for the Mac or Google Docs2. The faster startup (boot and hibernating) and lack of crashing OS can really increase productivity over time on the Mac. That can be very important for a small business.

  • http://www.soliddocuments.com Sam Levine

    TCO can be hard to quantify, but I’m always glad to see people give a it a try.

    If you do happen to work in a Windows shop and don’t need all of the features of Adobe Acrobat, I’d suggest looking at a lower cost or free solution. One free product someone might want to look at is at http://www.freepdfcreator.org