It's a hotly debated topic. Unfortunately, it's also an issue many technology professionals prove incapable of fully understanding, possibly for emotional reasons. But the facts should be clear to most impartial observers.
Macs look to cost more than a Windows computer, at least when performing a simple comparison of laptop or desktop computer prices. But what's the total cost of ownership? Get an MBA or accountant involved, and they muddy the waters quickly.
Let's cut through all the hype and disinformation. After serving as a technology consultant for years, I've learned there are three definitive ways in which Macs save organizations money compared to PCs.
#1 Pound for pound, Macs perform better
I've been amazed by the performance degradation Windows computers experience after several quarters or just two years of use. As software programs are loaded, virus and spyware infections are removed, corrupted system files are repaired and different applications are removed or updated, PC system performance declines measurably. Further, real-time antivirus programs rob Windows systems of resources, while multiple other third-party processes (photo loaders, print and scanning utilities, PDF tools, CD burning programs and similar applications) collected over time frequently load on startup and further slow performance. On those occasions when my office has had to reinstall Windows on these systems, we've confirmed exponentially faster system performance is experienced following the reinstallation.
Macs, thanks in part to their immunity to ubiquitous Windows-based viruses, spyware and malware, better-performing architecture and maximization of CPU and memory resources, don't experience these same performance degradations. I've consistently and repeatedly seen Mac performance proven time and again, even after a Mac has delivered years of service. The performance disparity is remarkable even on the same machine that dual boots Windows and Mac OS X. Macs boot quicker, perform actions and tasks within applications faster, and switch between programs with more grace and efficiency.
As a result, Mac users can often perform more actions, enter more data and complete more tasks more quickly than Windows users. These benefits translate to greater efficiency, enhanced productivity, and increased profitability.
#2 Macs are easier to use
Macs are simply easier to use than Windows machines, which means less time and money need to be invested training Mac users how to use their equipment. Mac users need not develop advanced expertise, either, trying to perform simple, routine tasks.
I've seen Windows end users struggle to master shadow volume copy operations when troubleshooting failed application backups. Apple's Time Machine backs up data almost automatically, creating easily accessed archive copies no less, and with little user intervention required.
Mac users need not lose otherwise productive hours, the way I've seen countless Windows users lose time, battling hardware drivers and printer configuration issues. Sure, some technology professionals complain that Apple maintains too tight control over the hardware specifications of its machines. But the benefit is that, when users connect compatible peripherals, they typically work very well with little configuration required.
#3 Macs are more secure
Because Macs leverage UNIX architecture and are immune to the ever-increasing and ubiquitous virus, worm, Trojan, spyware and other innumerable malware infections that regularly and frequently infect Windows systems, Mac users spend far less time, money and energy protecting and recovering their systems.
My consulting office has found it doesn't matter what strategy we use to protect PCs; end users' PCs become infected. We can deploy perimeter antimalware protections, implement powerful Web filtering technologies, and load and force leading antivirus application installation and updates on client PCs; yet, they still suffer infections.
The cost arising from infected PCs is astronomical. There's lost sales, time and productivity due to the system proving unavailable. Business interruptions occur. Consultants or IT staff must then spend time removing and repairing these systems. The costs of filters, antivirus software, and renewal licenses further increase PC total cost of ownership.
I have first-hand experience with this issue. My consulting office supports hundreds of commercial and nonprofit organizations that use PCs and Macs. Some use both. We see large numbers of Windows clients lose productive time and incur repair costs due to virus and spyware issues. I've never seen a Mac compromised.
I use Macs (since 1983 or 1984) and Windows (DOS in 1986; Windows beginning in 1993) machines at home. My consulting office has used both for years. In fact, despite Apple's official pronouncement a couple years ago encouraging Mac users to deploy antivirus, I've only ever installed antivirus exactly once on a client's workstation (and that was due to unusual and unique circumstances that resulted in the software finding no infections).
There are many other cost advantages associated with using Macs versus PCs, too. Apple hardware is first-rate and frequently outlasts similarly equipped systems from PC manufacturers, which means systems may require replacing less often and at longer intervals. Macs are less prone to unauthorized use, meaning data stored on Macs is likely safer and more secure, thanks to the lack of zombie and bot programs targeting the Apple platform. There are many other advantages, too. Feel free to post your thoughts by joining the discussion below.
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.