BizWeek: Corporate Anti-Mac Conspiracy

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By Goofyhoofy
March 19, 2002

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Here's an interesting theory. Corporate information-technology managers favor PCs because these machines are so befuddling. The rising complexity of workplace computing makes big companies ever more dependent on tech support, so what self-respecting chief information officer is going to recommend a computer -- such as the Mac -- that might shrink rather than expand his department's influence?

This is not news. I've posted the story several times before on the early version of the Fool boards. I ran a radio station in Pittsburgh in the mid '80's. At the time, the "solution" for word processing was IBM Selectric typewriters, and a couple of Burrough's B-20's which we were leasing for $2000 per month.

I took it upon myself to dump one of the Burroughs and go buy a six-pack of Mac's, put them on a big table in the Sales bullpen, and hook them up to a single laser printer. Without training, without handholding, and (most important) without an IT involvement whatsoever, the Macs were constantly busy, crashed only on the rarest of occasions, and everybody was happy. The sales people lined up and turned out spiffy presentations and we increased sales. This should be good, right?

The IT boys (this was Westinghouse, BTW) got freaked because I wanted to get rid of the Burroughs machines completely (which would have eliminated their domain), and forbade me from buying any more Mac's. "We won't support them!!!" they yelled. "OK," I replied.

They took the issue to corporate, which immediately saw the wisdom of not allowing local managers to make such weighty decisions. The Macs sat happily for a couple more years, all the time without support, without IT, without anything but new toner cartridges in the printer from time to time.

Then the edict came down from Milford, the mainframe and IT center. The Macs would be replaced, and having seen the wisdom of distributed computing (rather than centralized mainframe operations 600 miles away for simple word processing) they decreed we would get swell new Wintel machines, operating on DOS, and we would add an engineer to our budget line who was versed in "computer maintenance." And we did. We saved about $5,000 on the purchase price of the machines since they were cheaper, and added a $40,000 a year position for the rest of our life. Of course the five-grand disappeared into the sinkhole of "needs more memory" and "can't network without a card" and the like, but why mention any of that?

The IT guys in Connecticut were happy because the $40,000 guy liasoned to them, and corporate headquarters was happy because they were doing what the computer "experts" said to do, and the only people unhappy were the folks who actually had to use the machines, because everybody needed training, and they crashed constantly and how many secretaries and normal people wanted to go from GUI to "command line"????.

"Why did we have to change?" I asked. "Oh, those Macintoshes are cute", I was told, "but they're not serious machines. There's that, er, mouse. And those, er, windows. What's wrong with using the C prompt and backslash key?"

"Everything", I muttered.

Be clear. The Mac was better, it was first, it was easier, it was more reliable, it was "cute" and it made "computer guys" unnecessary. God help the IT manager who likes that package.

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