Even the most fervent PC enthusiast has to admit that Apple is on a roll. Riding on the coattails of the iPod's dominance and the iPhone's cachet, sales of the company's Macintosh personal computers are rising. What's more, there's a good argument to be made that the Mac's intuitive, productivity-focused interface makes it simpler to use than a Windows-based PC. And the Mac's near-invulnerability to malware, along with its easy user-level maintenance, has made many an IT honcho give it a long, hard look.
So it just may be time to integrate Macs into your business-computing mix. Due to a number of cross-platform integration enhancements, such as an improved user interface for share-point access from Apple and enhanced Exchange services from Microsoft, doing so is now easy and painless. And thanks to Intel, you don't even have to leave your familiar (and paid-for) Windows applications behind.
One caveat: Apple claims that Macs are as cost-effective as PCs. If you're looking for full-featured, high-end business systems, the two platforms are certainly comparable in price. If, however, you're simply seeking to provide your employees with systems on which to, well, work, basic PCs are less expensive, especially if you've acquired your enterprise applications on a site-license basis. Sorry, Mr. Jobs--it's true.
Buying the Right Mac
The first step in Mac integration is, of course, picking the Mac that's right for you and your staff. For most business uses, the iMac has more than enough CPU power and peripheral-connection choices--and forget about any preconceptions you may have about the iMac's being a "toy" computer. The days of those candy-colored bubbles are long gone. Today's iMac is a sleek, speedy, sexy, space-saving business partner.
The iMac comes with a 20- or 24-inch flat-panel display, so if you've already invested in monitors, select a compact, low-cost Mac Mini instead. The Mini's pedestrian graphics subsystem won't win any benchmarking races, but its small size and near-silent operation make it unobtrusive on a desk.
Apple's top-of-the-line Mac Pro (now with eight processor cores) has over-the-top power, plus PCI Express and four-bay SATA-drive expandability. It's overkill for most business needs, but the morale in your content-creation departments will soar if you bring a couple of these beefy systems to the office. But although the Mac Pro's pop-out RAM cards can hold up to 32GB of DDR2 ECC FB-DIMMs, you should skip Apple's pricey memory and buy from Mac-savvy suppliers such as Other World Computing.
Traditionally Macs have snuck into Windows-centric offices in laptop bags, and the latest crop of MacBooks and MacBook Pros continues that invasion. The 13-inch, plastic-bodied MacBook is fine for your junior road warriors, but your executive team will want the expanded capabilities and professional cachet of the MacBook Pro. The aluminum 15-inch MacBook Pro has a higher-resolution display, a significantly better graphics subsystem, an ExpressCard/34 slot, FireWire 800, and an illuminated keyboard. If your staffers need to edit video on location, spring for the 17-inch MacBook Pro, and consider upgrading to the enhanced 1920-by-1200-pixel display.
Though the Mac lineup is diverse, its members have a lot in common. All except the Mac Mini and Mac Pro come with 802.11n Wi-Fi; the Mini's still stuck with 802.11g, while both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.0+EDR are build-to-order options on the Mac Pro (all other Macs come with Bluetooth standard). All Macs are equipped with gigabit ethernet, USB 2.0, and FireWire 400, with FireWire 800 also standard on the iMac, MacBook Pro, and Mac Pro. No Macs come with modems. They're a $49 USB option--even though most manufacturers of Windows-based laptops realize that, yes, sometimes we business travelers are sitting in a Motel 6 without broadband access, and a modem would be welcome.