Go Apple, Young Man

Macs are making their way into the enterprise, and eWEEK Labs' Cameron Sturdevant wants to stay one step ahead of them by "going Apple." A lifelong Microsoft/PC user, Sturdevant is making the switch to be able to articulate the real benefits, drawbacks and costs of integrating the Apple/Mac platform into your organization. His journey begins here.

Once a fixture only in graphics departments and on rogue users' desks (or laps), Macs are making their way into the enterprise. As a lifelong Microsoft/PC user, I've decided to "live the Mac life" so that I can put both platforms in perspective in my Labs analysis and reviews.

As someone who came up through the PC platform, making the cut over to a one-button mouse and the sleek lines of the Mac interface has been a challenge, but one that I'm slowly overcoming.

Most recently, I've been testing an Apple MacBook Pro 17-inch luxury laptop, and the best way to sum up the experience thus far is that it is the ultimate in fat clients. The fact that by a few grams and even fewer millimeters it is the thinnest and lightest 17-inch system currently available in no way reduces the fatness of this lovely laptop. (For an eWEEK Labs analysis on dealing with "Mac creep" in the enterprise, click here.)

But this is far from my first experience with Apple.

It all started about two years ago when I won an Apple iPod Nano in a giveaway sponsored by Alameda County public transit. Until that time, I had staunchly resisted the iPod phenomenon and its accompanying iTunes buying mania. I just knew I'd be hooked at the first obscure song download. I was unable to resist that Nano, however, and the rest is history. I've been an iTunes user ever since, happily buying music I wouldn't have purchased in a million years in a record store.

Then my Palm Treo needed to be replaced at about the same time the first-generation Apple iPhone came out. I work next to mobile device guru Andrew Garcia, who convinced me that the iPhone was the way to go.

Those are just two examples of how Apple has been sneaking into my life, and I've started noticing Apple devices in more places.

Up until now I've been-by default more than fervent choice-a PC foot soldier in the religious wars between Mac and PCs.

Most of eWEEK's readers though the ages have been PC readers, but, then again, when I first started working here (when the publication was called PC Week, incidentally), our readers were overwhelmingly using Novell NetWare.

The times they have a-changed.

I still think the "I'm a Mac" commercials are insufferable and the "I'm a PC" stickers I've seen at every Microsoft briefing I've attended since that campaign started are needlessly defensive.

Indeed, without trying, I think I'm becoming a "bilingual" computer user who is happy in either world.

We got a Mac mini for the lab, and that system has been transformed into my current desktop. I'm using Office 2008 for the Mac to write these words, and I use Entourage to check my e-mail and track my calendar (even though I really dislike the product).

I've become fairly adept at using a one-button mouse and at using Finder, Spotlight and Dock to quickly access the applications I need to do the research and conduct the tests that are at the center of my daily work life.

I've also enjoyed not having to worry about virus scans or Conficker problems. That said, I'm far from smug in my feeling of security on the Mac platform, mostly because I don't want to jinx my good luck.

As I continue my exploration of Apple technology in the enterprise, I'm going to start probing some of the very practical questions that come with putting this fat client on corporate desktops.

First among these is the question of AppleCare in a large organization. It's clear that PC maintenance is a significant cost to organizations, and I'm curious to see how the maintenance costs compare on the Mac side. I'll also be looking into how services, including warranty services for hardware, are handled for midsize to large enterprises.

Image maintenance, the real costs of maintaining two sets of desktop infrastructure support systems, and the differences in hardware and software costs are other areas I'll be exploring.

No, I'm not forgetting the elephant in the room: Apple's higher equipment costs. I'll be evaluating whether this premium up-front is balanced by lifetime savings.

I invite you to come along as I take a sabbatical from the PC world (at least as far as my desktop is concerned) to see what strategic lessons can be learned for alternative desktop strategies in the not-too-distant future.

eWEEK Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at [email protected]