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Should Small Businesses Go Mac?

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By LongHook
November 8, 2002

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It is up to Apple to convince them otherwise.

So far I've seen the iMac used in a lot of small businesses and professional offices, far more so than I was expecting. A nearby dentist has Macs for everything except for a few key pieces of vertical market gear (X-ray machine is PC based...*shudder*). I've seen a few other local businesses that were similar.

I run a small business, and I can tell you, without a doubt, that continuing to use Windows is tougher and tougher. The cost of Windows XP is absurdly high, especially WinXP Pro if you want to use a dual processor machine.

Microsoft Office is laughably expensive, especially when probably 99%+ of Office users use maybe 5% or less of the total features. Yet it still cost me something like $600.

I eventually got rid of it, even though the money was spent, and switched to OpenOffice, which works extremely well.

For us, the issue isn't usability -- we can use PCs or Macs just fine and neither is any more or less productive than the other -- it's about the cost of software and continued use.

For a consumer, this isn't a big deal. WinXP is pre-installed, and they rarely upgrade. A Compaq D315 for $499 is an outstanding deal -- that's a solid machine with WinXP already installed. Many consumers can buy that and be happy for at least 3-5 years.

But for a small business, where you may have tighter upgrade cycles, and when each employee means "new computer + new software", then suddenly the costs start to pile up.

I know this has been talked about over and over, but Apple seriously needs to get OpenOffice working with Cocoa. They should either bring on some engineers full time or just farm it out to someone like OmniGroup to get it done, because if they could bundle OpenOffice with every Mac, that's basically knocking $300-500 off the price of a new computer right there.

Suddenly you're looking at something that is price competitive as a "complete package" to small businesses. If Apple also got rid of that ludicrous exploitation going on with their Apple Loan program and pushed that as an alternative, then a lot of small businesses would be interested.

Of course, the fact that OpenOffice runs on Windows -- well -- and not on MacOS X (well) isn't helping things. If you're trying to save money on Office, you're better off getting Linux or a Windows PC. Sad, but true.

The other problem is that TCO [Total Cost of Ownership] is a nebulous concept for companies to grasp. When you're a small business, CASH IS KING. Initial outlay and avoiding depletion of cash reserves is extremely important, which is why many small companies would rather over pay by 30% for a leased computer than save money in the long run with more money up front.

So the argument "Buying this Mac may cost you $1600 up front, but with marginal to no incremental costs over the next two years" vs. "Buying this PC is only $1000, but you'll spend $2000 over the next two years in 'various costs'" is a tough sell.

Apple HAS to itemize those extra costs, because otherwise people just don't believe in them. A PC buyer may say "Those costs are if you're a novice, and I'm not, so those costs don't exist", but if Apple can show that those costs exist no matter how experienced a PC user you may think you are, then it's a much easier pitch.

Apple has the hardware to get into small business, but they don't have the software or marketing to do so. They're not aiming at small biz, they're aiming at consumers right now.

Small businesses, in general, don't give a damn about iMovie or iTunes.

-Hook


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