What Disaster Will It Take For Corporations to Seriously Consider Macs?

by Chris Howard Feb 11, 2009

You know, I do believe in Santa Claus. After all, every Christmas morning he's left prezzies for my kids. Whether he's a jolly old fellow in a red suit from the North Pole with flying reindeers, well, that's open to debate. And I also believe that Macs are less vulnerable to viruses than Windows computers. Which makes wonder if too many IT people think that's a fairy tale.


A lot of people don't want to believe that. You've heard them before, "As soon as the Mac gets more popular, the virus writers will be all over it." Yeah... okay... let's see... they said that when Macs had 2% marketshare and now Macs are up to almost 10% marketshare (depending on which figures you look at). But that obviously is an insignificant increase. Yep, that must be it.


Of course, recently we did see a Mac trojan; however, trojans aren't viruses. The key of a virus is your operating system's security is so weak, the virus doesn't require human assistance to hack into your computer, do its dastardly worst and then hop along to someone else's computer. (Really, what's so bad about a virus that wipes a PC's hard disk? Isn't wiping out Windows a community service.)


In some places the solution to viruses is strict security. You might say foolproof security, even. But that's risky, because didn't someone once say that the definition of foolproof security is only a fool can breach it?


Now take my kids' primary school, for example. It's gone down the tighening security approach. Each week I take its newsletter home on a USB stick, convert it from MS Publisher to a PDF and upload it to the school's website. Late last year they implemented new security whereby USB sticks weren't allowed in computers that were used to access critical data - for fear of a virus causing the loss of that data. So now the process is more convoluted to get that file.


I'm not picking on them. This is what they need to do; this is the sort of security necessary on an open network; this is what it takes.


Or should take. I shook my head when I read this week of the Houston municipal court that was knocked out by a virus. I know it's not easy to keep everything out, but I do wonder if they were doing enough.


Although, what is enough? Get rid of all the fools? Tempting. But the real fools are the ones who have it in their power to change but don't. Who'd rather "the devil they know". Who'd rather think "Macs will get viruses one day" and so stick with their Windows systems even though new threats are appearing at a much greater rate (than the Mac), and old ones sometimes resurface in new form (as happened in Houston).


Changing ships is massively expensive, so (especially in light of last week's article about budgets hindering people's purchase of Macs) I understand the reluctance. But the cost of something nasty getting through can be much greater.


Change can be made though.  As I say, I do believe the Mac is an inherently significantly more secure platform than Windows, and that that's no fairytale. Holes may be found in time, but the management of patching those holes is so much easier than Windows, which for many years resembled a sieve, and as fast as one hole was patched another would appear. And some of those holes are still leaking - just ask Houston if they've got a problem.


What will it take for change to happen? How big a disaster? Who will take the lead and say enough? Who, rather than trying (and failing) to squeeze the cost of conversion into a budget, will set their budget based on the cost of conversion?


Although I do wonder, would Apple cope if there was a massive swing to its computer systems? Is it prepared? Is it even interested? Maybe that last question is why it's not happening.


  • “...Windows systems with dozens of new viruses every day”
    I would LOVE to see a citation for that! Maybe you should look at Windows Vista/7. Writing a birus for these are much more difficult to write, and it is much much much more secure than XP, especially with UAC switched on, where the user must ACTIVELY DECIDE TO INSTALL THE VIRUS BY IGNORING THE WARNING. And please don’t go “LULZZZ Vista”; while it’s not the greatest OS ever released, it is more than good enough for corporations and 99% of users, and Windows 7 is turning out to be a much more polished version of Vista, which looks like it is going to shut a lot of people up.
    And as you said, trojans require fools to work, which I’m sure there are some fools who use Macs, thereby negating their perceived advantage, no?

    Corporations won’t consider Macs for lots of reasons:
    1. Most larger corporations will have in-house software/macros etc which run on Windows. A huge huge deal.
    2. What do you buy from Apple? Minis, iMacs, or PowerMacs? Hmm… not a great choice, any of them. I’ll stick with my Dells and HPs, where you get what you want, thank you very much.
    3. Where is Apple’s corporate software; Exchange etc? The range of business software on Windows is far far far wider than anything available on Macs.
    4. If the reason for moving to Apple is for security, why not move to Linux? Plenty of companies are, obviously it’s still only a very small percentage, but most flavours of Linux meet the needs of corporations better than OSX does.
    5. Macs cost more. End of. The TCO will not be less than an equivalent Windows shop.
    6. “the management of patching those holes is so much easier than Windows”. WRONG. Microsoft have an awesome update schedule which runs like clockwork, unless a major security flaw is found, in which case a patch will be released earlier. This makes it easy to plan updates within the company, and it can be totally centralised. Unlike Apple, which release updates and patches whenever they feel like it, and a lot of the time don’t even say what the patch is for, rather than it just “fixes a security hole”.

    bob-bob had this to say on Feb 11, 2009 Posts: 12
  • Most of these companies don’t even have the budgets to upgrade to the much more secure Windows Vista; you really think there’s a chance they’re going to abandon ALL of their hardware and ALL of their software to switch to Macs?

    And as bob-bob asks, if they’re going to go to the trouble to switch, why not Linux?  At least then they could keep their existing hardware systems and simply replace the OS.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Feb 11, 2009 Posts: 2220
  • Sorry, bob-bob, that was a very loose comment about the “dozens of new viruses a day”, so poor in fact, will go back and remove it.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Feb 11, 2009 Posts: 1209
  • And yeah, it’s well worth mentioning Linux as an alternative too. It does have some significant advantages over Macs, as you mention. And, of course, the Macs have advantages over Linux too.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Feb 11, 2009 Posts: 1209
  • I think the Mac’s advantage for me personally is available software vs Linux.  But what would the advantages be for an enterprise situation likely using proprietary software with dozens to several hundred PCs, especially advantages that are going to override the significant budget difference?

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Feb 11, 2009 Posts: 2220
  • Therein is the problem, Beeb, and why I ssupect Apple doesn’t care. Apple needs to support developers who want to push into enterprise applications in a real way. The App Store demostrates what happens when developers get given a leg up.

    Surely Apple could have some sort of enterprise developer initiative, maybe a financial or marketing one. Maybe Apple could say, “You write the apps, and we’ll sell them to enterprise for you.”

    I’ve been in enterprise and there are so many proprietary and industry specific apps, it’s just easier for develoeprs to stick to developing for Windows. Apple needs to find a way to make developing enterprise apps for the Mac easier.

    And then maybe when that “disaster” comes, change for others will be much easier.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Feb 11, 2009 Posts: 1209
  • But that doesn’t answer my question.  What advantages does the Mac offer over Linux and Windows?  And how do those advantages offset the significant cost of switching to the Mac over Linux or Windows that you think enterprise should undertake?

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Feb 11, 2009 Posts: 2220
  • Well, I guess truthfully, because of the developer community, I think the advantages favour Linux at the moment.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Feb 11, 2009 Posts: 1209
  • It is no little secret that Microsoft makes the bulk of its profits from selling software to corporations, not home consumers.  When Microsoft says “our customers” demanded it, they are referring to Wall Street not Main Street.

    Apple on the other hand is primarily focused on the consumer; think iPods, iPhones, Apple TVs etc.  It’s consumers are designed to make MY life easier; not my employers.

    This is why those Mac vs PC ads works.  The target audience is you, not you boss.

    The Mac gives the average home computer user the most bang ( and safety ) for the buck.

    For the company with the enterprise leverl firewall, data center, gigabit network - a locked down, centrally managed ( no rogue software downloads ) workstation is the norm.  The hardware is designed to be cheap and functional.  It’s shareholder money after all.

    Khürt Williams had this to say on Feb 12, 2009 Posts: 45
  • I want to say companies will take Macs seriously when Apple takes Macs seriously.  But the real answer is larger companies will never go with Apple because Microsoft is making it damn near impossible.  They are doing to server software what they did with Office.  They are integrating everything.  Exchange, Office, Sharepoint, IIS, etc.  Its all a pile of crap, but it integrates well.  And executives drool over that.

    jocknerd had this to say on Feb 12, 2009 Posts: 23
  • “They are doing to server software what they did with Office.  They are integrating everything.”

    So Mac software does NOT integrate well?

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Feb 12, 2009 Posts: 2220
  • “companies will take Macs seriously when Apple takes Macs seriously.”

    So very true.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Feb 12, 2009 Posts: 1209
  • “So Mac software does NOT integrate well? “

    Not with closed MS systems, it doesn’t. I believe that’s the point. Don’t be pedantic.

    evilcat had this to say on Feb 12, 2009 Posts: 66
  • “Not with closed MS systems, it doesn’t. I believe that’s the point.”

    This is about why they won’t switch to Macs, in which case integrating with MS would be moot, since one would presume they’d switch to Apple server software as well.  Otherwise, what would be the point?

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Feb 12, 2009 Posts: 2220
  • There are three reasons that the enterprise market will never switch to Macs. One reason is that IT professionals don’t understand Macs. IT managers don’t care about ease of use or protection from viruses. Those things are what keep them employed.
    The other reason is herd mentality. If XYZ company needs computers and a network solution they want to be 100% compatible with all of their potential customers. And finally, most business customers want PCs running Windows XP because they require little employee training. When buying 100s of PCs from someone like Dell, the cost per unit is very small compared to buying Macs. Cheap is hard to beat.

    Flyboybob had this to say on Feb 12, 2009 Posts: 33
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