Why won't IT staff recommend Macs or Linux?
You'll sometimes hear this sentiment:
"You won't find IT/MIS staff recommending Macs or Linux because they know that they would be recommending themselves out of a job."
No, I don't think so. Oh, sure, there is a kernel of truth there: Windows networks do generally require
more support staff than Unix or Linux systems, but I don't think your typical Windows centric IT
person knows that. You need to be someone who has seen Unix networks switched to Windows and have watched the inexorable inflation of support personnel to understand that.
In fact, a "Windows-only" IT person contemplating an influx of Mac or Linux systems
almost certainly sees them as a support headache at best and a nightmare at worst: unfamiliar problems
will plague the network and wreak havoc in IT.
Those attitudes are changing, of course. Both Linux and Macs are insinuating themselves
into businesses more and more. Some Macs were always there, but it's not just the Art department
anymore and while Linux seldom reaches the desktop, Linux servers are quite strong. The IT
department may not have "recommended", but they are accepting these invasions - perhaps grudgingly at times,
but still accepting.
Let's say something nice about Microsoft:
Microsoft's predatory business practices of bullying, baiting, and all that aside,
Microsoft does pays close attention to what people want. They may do a
horrible, botched job of providing it initially, and at the next
revision, and so on, but eventually they do provide decent products
(usually assisted by driving out the competition with unfair pricing
etc. but that's another story).
With apologies for gross over simplification, Unix and Linux have paid little attention to users and
tend toward satisfying programmers, and Apple has historically told us
what it thinks we SHOULD want rather than what we DO want. Remember the
idiotic Apple II's with no arrow keys? Spreadsheets weren't a lot of
fun on that platform, but Apple Knew Better.
Apple bigots should pause before sending me death threats: I *like*
Apple. I'm writing this on an iMac. I like Macs, and ever since Mac has embraced Unix I have
not used anything else as my desktop machine.
More generically, I'm a long time Unix fan and have 30 years or so of IT experience in addition
to Unix - Dos, Windows, Macs, Novell and a few other odd things here and
there. I have seen businesses switch to Windows from Unix.
It is true that Windows networks demand more IT resources, but
IT people aren't generally afraid of losing work if they brought in
non-Windows platforms - there's just too much to be done to worry about
that. What they do worry about is interoperability (which is not helped
by our friends at Microsoft sometimes bending over backwards to
deliberately break interoperability and generally keeping their
interfaces secret). But Linux has been able to make
inroads on the server side in spite of that.
Not on the desktop, though. Unix and Linux have
historically been weak there - the developers just haven't give the user
interface enough attention. It has gotten better recently with Linux,
but it's still a bit rough.
That's certainly not something anyone ever
said about Apple! Whatever faults Apple has had, ignoring the user
interface certainly hasn't been one of them. They may have had their
foolish moments (Apple II's etc) but UI is their definite strength.
At one time I thought that Macs might resurge strongly on the desktop. Instead,
it's tablets and cloud computing that are driving Microsoft out. That's something
IT departments wanted to resist also, for security as well as interoperability reasons.
The demand is too strong, though, and BYOD (bring Your own Device) is a trend that will
The next decade is going to be interesting!
As to home users:
You might think I recommend Macs all the time, but I don't.
People often ask my advice about buying a computer for themselves,
for a daughter going off to college, for their business. Most of
the time, after thinking about who they are and what they need, I
end up steering them to a Windows machine. I'm never really happy
about that, but at this point I just can't see any way around
There are analogies in the world of cars. Maybe a Mac is the
computing equivalent of one of those electric hybrids that my
sister wants to buy. Or maybe it's a BMW with a diesel engine: very
nice car, but the inconvenience of diesel can be a problem for some
people. Inconvenience is probably just about the right word: just
like the BMW, there may be lots of good things you wouldn't get
with the Ford Taurus/Windows PC, but there are also little things
like using diesel or that Windows only applications won't run (yes,
you could run them under Virtual PC - we'll get to that).
For many of the people I talk to, some Windows application is
the reason they own a computer. There may be a Mac equivalent, in
fact it's likely that there is. But sometimes that's like offering
someone milk instead of cream for their coffee. It's not the same.
Some people adapt easily, some people don't. Don't try offering my
wife anything but Coffeemate or cream, but I'll take it anyway you
have it, including straight black. Some people are just not going
to like having things be different, or are going to really need
some Windows-only program.
Of course there would be good things too. Just like the Beamer,
the Mac has charms not found in Windows or a Taurus. Almost
complete elimination of virus and worm concerns, for one. Some Mac
programs are actually much better than their PC equivalents, too.
The power of Unix sits underneath the pretty Mac interface, and
that's a big, big plus in my mind.
If you are looking at a Mac, I do recommend that you load it up
with lots more memory. Apple does themselves a disservice selling
these with the base memory configurations they have: it's not
enough, and will just cause swapping and unpleasant experiences for
the new user. That's not what you want: keeping the sticker price
down undoubtedly drives this, but it is short sighted and damaging
to future sales. People are going to USE these machines; I run with
far more open programs than I would with Windows and I think that's
typical. Running programs need ram: feed the beast within.
But again, today I'm more apt to recommend a tablet than anything else.
Some of the comments below were transferred from a much older article on this same subject.
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