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Opinion: Apple's new MacBook is a stealth business notebook

At some companies, Mac infiltration is already well under way

October 28, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Many observers consider the iPhone, with its Exchange support and fledgling manageability features, to be Apple's Trojan horse for the medium to large enterprise market. And with good reason. Figures just out show that Apple sold more than 10 million iPhones during its first 15 months. With or without IT approval, a whole lot of Apple smart phones are being used in business settings.

That's why I paid close attention to the new MacBook and MacBook Pro models released by Apple earlier this month. I admit to being surprised when I got a look at the new MacBook and checked out its specs. My surprise turned to admiration a couple of days later when the new MacBook arrived on my desk. The new glass trackpad is very precise, and the aluminum case is attractive and functional.

The previous-generation MacBook was a thick, heavy, toylike, 13.3-in.-display computer whose chief claim to fame was that it was the least expensive notebook Apple sold, and the biggest seller. The sweet spot of the MacBook lineup was the $1,299 model, which got you a 2.4-GHz processor, 800-MHz front-side bus, 2GB of RAM and a 160GB hard drive.

The newly introduced $1,299 MacBook has a more durable aluminum unibody case, a bright LED-backlit display, the new glass touch-interface trackpad, faster 1,066-MHz front-side bus and RAM and integrated 256MB Nvidia video. It's also smaller and lighter at under 1-in. thick and 4.5 lb. The processor speed for this model is back to 2 GHz. The new uplevel MacBook, which sells for $1,599, has the 2.4-GHz Core 2 Duo processor, a 250GB hard drive and an illuminated keyboard. Apple's price for the upgrade to 4GB of RAM is $150, a much more reasonable price for 4GB than Apple has charged for previous models.

Specs aren't the whole story

The specs don't really tell the most important part of the story, though. After more than 25 years of watching technology, I've come to believe in the consumerization of IT as a more powerful driver in the adoption of end-user technology by enterprises than most analysts and pundits allow for. I'm not predicting wholesale adoption of Macs by larger enterprises anytime soon, but the new MacBook will make the most significant inroads into the enterprise market of any Apple product, probably ever. It comes down to price/performance, price point, design focus, durability, suitability to task and market timing.

To explore some of these aspects, I asked my company's senior manager of technology services, Kevin Ford, to do the math. He did a formal price comparison of the Lenovo X200 -- a model that employees of Computerworld and parent company IDG are often supplied with -- and the new 2.4-GHz MacBook. While Lenovo's X300 might be a better point of comparison because it offers the 13.3-in. screen, it comes with an expensive solid-state drive. So he compared the X200, which features a 12-in. screen.

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