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Why Apple's 'consumer' Macs are enterprise-worthy

Not everyone needs a Mac Pro; sometimes a mini might do

By Seth Weintraub
March 9, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Not too long ago, ad agencies, design firms and other creative companies were about the only businesses that widely deployed Macintosh computers to their employees. But for a number of reasons, word of the benefits of Apple Inc. hardware -- and software -- on enterprise desktops is now spreading. That list of reasons includes:

  • Years of spyware, malware and virus headaches that affect Windows XP have pushed IT managers to scramble for new options they might not have considered in the past.
  • The learning curve and disparity of Linux distributions is too high for easy general office use.
  • Many corporate applications have been ported to W3-compliant Web services that are OS-agnostic.
  • The Mac platform has moved to Windows-compatible Intel chips, which are less expensive and more powerful than older PowerPC processors and make virtualization a viable alternative.
  • Mac enterprise administration has become more mainstream and interoperable with Active Directory, Microsoft's user and inventory LDAP database. Active Directory is the backbone of most corporate environments and can be tied to everything IT-related, including IP phones, facilities access and, of course, computer security. Because Macs work with Microsoft's directory, enterprise administrators can now more easily manage Macs alongside Windows machines.
  • Apple's consumer lineup is falling into the hands of business decision-makers and their families, and scoring well. What works well at home could do well at work.

That last point, in fact, could become the biggest motivator for a platform shift in the next few quarters. Macintosh computers appear to be making market-share gains in the home, opening the door to similar success in the enterprise. But which Apple machines are appropriate for corporate use? Should IT managers focus only on the "professional" end of Apple's offerings -- the Mac Pro desktop machine or MacBook Pro laptop line? Or would an iMac, a Mac mini or a MacBook make as much sense for business?

"The distinction between Apple's enterprise and consumer personal computers is rather artificial," says Edward Eigerman, a principal at New York-based IT deployment specialists Eigerman Consulting Inc. "We find that most PCs that are sold as enterprise desktops are actually stripped-down, lightweight versions of the computers the same companies sell to home users. These machines lack the basic technologies needed in the modern enterprise. Apple, on the other hand, simply doesn't sell a minimalist computer whose predominant 'feature' is its price point, aimed at businesses or any other market."

For instance, you can't buy a Mac without at least 512MB of RAM, Bluetooth, 802.11g Wi-Fi networking, Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire and even a remote control -- and that's before you consider the included software. None of the base business models of HP or Dell even comes close to that.

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