‘Every Mac we buy is making and saving IBM money’ - IBM

For enterprise users, is the Mac TCO still higher than a PC?

Apple, IBM, enterprise, Mac, OS X, PC
Credit: IBM

Return of the Mac

I’ve explained already why tech support hate Macs, but thought you’d be interested in even more insights into IBM’s massive Mac deployment, revealed overnight.

Take a look at this video:

The video shows Fletcher Previn, VP of Workplace-as-a-Service at IBM telling the 2015 JAMF Nation User Conference about IBM’s huge Mac deployment project.

“We really view the Mac@IBM program as driving transformation as IBM becomes a more agile enterprise,” Previn explained. That’s a fairly critical admission from the company as it means IBM believes that enterprises hoping to fully embrace the opportunity for digital transformation should think about adopting solutions from Apple.

That’s an Apple in the enterprise story, and that’s where I come in.

Also read: CIO: 7 Mac migration dangers to avoid

Apple in the ocean

You can’t really deny that IBM is already a digital company with all the benefits this brings. “40,000 or our employees never come to work in an IBM office,” Previn said. Historically, there has also been long-term demand from employees who’ve wanted to use Macs at IBM.“This is something people want, it makes them happier and makes them more productive,” he said.

IBM coalesced its thinking around a few key criteria, summed up by the theoretical scenario Previn put this way: “If I throw my Mac into the ocean and go out and get another one, will everything I had on the old one appear on it?”

That’s what IBM’s master system integrators achieved when they began the Mac program in June 2015.

When employees receive their Mac they get the product in a shrink-wrapped box with a URL. That’s all they need. One visit to the URL and they are guided through Mac set-up. Supported by Casper Suite Self Service this is the only way IBM delivers software to the Mac. Set-up handles everything, from app installation to Wi-Fi set-up.

Satisfaction everywhere

IBM recognized how essential it would be to have the right people in place to support the new Mac users, rather than relying on Mac-cynical traditional tech IT. This meant that when the company began the scheme, “we hired people who loved the Mac as much as the people choosing to use them,” said Previn.

IBM now has 130,000 Mac and iOS devices deployed and is adding an additional 1,900 Macs each week, using Apple's Device Enrolment Program to facilitate the process . These thousands of Macs are supported by just 24 help and support staff. The Mac support team effectively support 5,375 employees each.

That’s not a lot of support staff. Just 5 percent of IBM’s Mac using employees need to call the help desk; In contrast an astonishing 40 percent of PC using staff call the help desk.

When these figures first emerged I heard some cynics say they doubted all the tech support problems were successfully resolved.

They need to eat their words.

Previn shares astonishingly high customer satisfaction figures on support provision: First time call resolutions hit 98.7 percent and customer satisfaction scores reached 85 percent.

More expensive? Really?

Apple’s products continue to suffer from the misguided perception that they are more expensive than PCs. That’s certainly true in terms of initial dollar cost, but in terms of usability and more, IBM’s evidence suggests the true cost may not be carried on the price tag.

IBM can’t put dollar values around this yet as the scheme only began on June 1, but Previn is making some pretty optimistic sounds: “The longer this scheme runs the more compelling the business case becomes,” he said, “but I can confidently say every Mac that we buy is making and saving IBM money.”

"The Mac@IBM project shows that it’s not only better for users to offer the choice of Mac and iOS, but it’s better for the business as well. They’re offering employees the tools for productivity and creativity and supporting them a lower IT cost compared to the Windows PC baseline," states JAMF Software Marketing Manager, Tad Johnson.

It will be interesting when IBM is able to deliver accurate TCO figures reflecting its Mac v PC deployment experience. From what the company has said so far it seems possible that in a large scale real-world deployment across a major global enterprise, Macs are not really more expensive than PCs, when the cost of supporting, integrating and maintaining them is taken into account. IBM should be able to provide useful insights here, given it is transforming a 500,000+ Windows-centric organisation to support Apple's platforms. 

The only question enterprises should be asking is, “Are Macs cheaper?”

I can’t wait to find out.

(Updated to add: During its October earnings call Apple CFO Luca Maestri claimed IBM has been saving roughly $270 on each MacBook its employees use instead of a traditional PC, largely due to lower IT support costs and better residual value).

You can watch the longer version of Previn’s presentation right here.

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