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Switch to Macs from PCs reportedly saves IBM US$270 per user

Matt Kapko | Nov. 6, 2015
With the aid of large customers such as IBM, Apple is making the case that Macs are more secure and less expensive to manage than PCs. IT leaders, however, may still be turned off by the high upfront costs and associated infrastructure challenges.

Credit: REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

Many workers have no choice when it comes to the technology they use at work, which means they are often systematically relegated to PCs instead of more expensive Macs. People who dare to as ask why they can't have Apple devices often hear a common refrain: Macs are more expensive; Macs are more difficult to support; and Macs are harder to manage and more challenging to control.

Until last spring, IBM, a company with roughly 400,000 employees and 130,000 external contractors, was a just-say-no-to-Apple shop. Now the company is eating crow like so many other organizations that once supported the status quo and avoided Macs. 

IBM struck a wide-ranging enterprise mobility partnership with Apple in June 2014, but its IT organization didn't start officially supporting Macs until a year later. Since then, more than 30,000 Macs have been deployed at IBM in just five months, and the company says it is currently bringing 1,900 Macs to employees each week. 

IBM slowly embraces Apple and the Mac

Today, IBM employees can request Macs instead of PCs when they become eligible for new machines. "There had, I think, always been quite a lot of built-up demand for people that wanted to use Macs at IBM," said Fletcher Previn, vice president of workplace-as-a-service at IBM, who spoke about the Mac@IBM program at a recent JAMF Software user conference in Minneapolis. (JAMF makes mobile device management software for Apple products, and it also works with IBM.)  

JAMF Software is already benefiting from the change of heart and organizational process, according to Previn. The team of 24 IT staffers and specialists who support Macs at IBM is much smaller than what was required for PC support, and it spends less time fixing technical problems, Previn says. "You just have fewer problems coming in."

While 40 percent of IBM's PC users call the helpdesk for troubleshooting, on average only 5 percent of the company's Mac user do the same, according to Previn. "The longer this program runs, the more compelling the business case becomes," he says. "I can confidently say that every Mac that we buy is making and saving IBM money."

Just how much money? "IBM tells us that each Mac is saving $270 compared to a traditional PC, thanks to much reduced support cost and better residual value," said Luca Maestri, Apple CFO and senior vice president, during the company's most recent earnings call.

Workers want control and choice

Cost savings notwithstanding, employee desire to own and control their own technology is the biggest factor driving Mac adoption in the enterprise, according to David Johnson, principal analyst, Forrester Research. According to the firm's latest survey results, about 6 percent of global information workers (9 percent in the United States) say their primary work laptop is a Mac, and 13 percent (17 percent in the United States) say they want a Mac for their next work laptop. 


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