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Saying yes to Macs when your company says no

Saying yes to Macs when your company says no

Will Weider has used Macs since he paid US$3,000 for a Mac Plus in 1984 and shelled out another $600 for 512kb of extra memory. And he says Macs are just cool technology.

Will Weider has used Macs since he paid US$3,000 for a Mac Plus-also known as the "Fat" Mac-in 1984 and shelled out another $600 for 512kb of extra memory.

Although he took a break from Apple's computers during much of the 90's, Weider likens Macs to luxury cars in a PC world of Chevy Impalas.

Yet, it's the world of the Impalas where he has to work daily.

As the CIO of Ministry Health Care and Affinity Health System, Weider is well-entrenched in world of Windows, with little hope of introducing Macs. Of the 400 applications necessary for those two businesses to operate, Weider estimates that only about 20 would have a version that runs natively on Mac OS. He also serves more than 16,000 users with systems less than four years old. Moving that many people over to Mac hardware would cost at least 20 percent more, he estimates, making it unlikely that the healthcare companies will be switching from Windows anytime soon.

"Even for me to suggest (switching) to management would be career suicide," Weider says. "And we are really heavy into standardization, so I wouldn't even consider a mixed-mode environment."

Weider sees possible opportunity in the future, however. As applications increasingly move onto intranets and the Web, Macs could cost-effectively be adopted by smaller clinics and health facilities, he says.

"You are certainly looking at a greater opportunity," he says. "But right now, all of the planets in the solar system would have to line up right to make that [moving to Macs] make sense."

So for now, Weider only dreams of moving his users over to the Mac OS X. He shared the top five reasons he would like to bring Macs into his workplace.

1. Vendor Negotiation Power

Weider likes choice, and he believes there is far too little of it in the PC world. The high cost of Microsoft Vista, and the hardware needed to run the operating system efficiently,has convinced many CIOs to refuse to upgrade. According to a recent Forrester Research report, the use of Windows XP remains virtually unchanged-at about 89 percent- among corporate users.

Weider has not adopted Vista in his enterprise and has no plans to do so in the near future, he says. "There are probably fewer barriers than moving to Macs, but some of the big ones are the same:application incompatibility and cost," Weider says.

When Weider's healthcare clients do need to upgrade, the 45-year-old CIO would like to be able to bargain among multiple vendors. Instead, he has little negotiating power to bring to the table, he says.

"An over-dependence on one vendor is a really bad bargaining position," Weider says. "If prices are increasing to X, Y, and Z, the only thing I can do is grin and bear it."

Just as the threat of rolling out Linux to corporate users can bring discounts from Microsoftand other companies, Weider believes having a viable Mac contingent inside hospitals and clinics could give him the ability to bargain better.

2. Better for Beginners

For the novice user, Macs prove far easier to use, Weider says. Apple has put a lot of thought into the design, and that makes for a better, more intuitive interface, he says.

However, the CIO acknowledges that most of his employees are not starting fresh, so the advantage in usability of Macs over Windows system is mostly a moot point.

"Take someone learning both a PC and a Mac, and they will learn a Mac faster," he says. "But take a PC user and introduce them to a Mac, then everything they knew is completely wrong."

3. Safety in Low Malware Numbers

Users behave dangerously, so putting them on a safer platform is important, Weider says.

While Apple has had to patch as many vulnerabilities as Microsoft-more, including the open-source components of the Mac OS X-Macs are a much safer platform than Windows, because online attackers have not focused on the platform as much. Over the past year, only a few notable attempts have been made to infect Macs with malicious software.

That would make the CIO's job a lot easier, Weider says.

"We spend a lot of time focusing on how to prevent malware on the (Windows) platform," he says. "While the Mac has some issues, it has fewer threats."

The safety of Macs will be tested in the future, however. Last autumn, an Internet crime group released a Trojan horse program that represents the most serious attempt to date to infect Mac users' systems. Known as DNSCharger, the Trojan horse masquerades as software needed to play a pornographic file. Users that allow the file to "play," instead infect their computers.

For that reason, Weider continues to focus on making his users more aware of dangerous activities.

"The best defense is having good, educated user," he says.

4. Smart Users Benefit the Company

The ability of the Mac OS X to hide the technology from the user makes the machines more fun to use, Weider says. And by adding interest and breaking down technological phobias, users are not afraid to learn more about technology.

More technically-educated users represent a win for any company, Weider says.

"Part of my job as a CIO is to increase the technical savvy of our workforce, and Mac users seem to want to learn about technology more than Windows users," he says.

Many of his workers use Macs at home, so Weider was able to convince other executives that the healthcare companies needed to support those Macs and allow remote access to specific applications through Citrix.

"There is a real culture around the Mac," he says. "People that are Mac users talk to other Mac users, and really learn about their Macs."

5. The Cool Factor

Finally, Macs are just cool technology, Weider says. The aluminum cases and slick desktop interface make a statement.

"They are beautiful pieces of machinery," he says. "I went into a company that runs all Macintoshes, and it was awesomely beautiful."

For the majority of companies, however, information technology is a means to an end, and it's the destination that matters.

"In the end, the OS is like a car," Weider says. "Some are cooler than others-XP is a Chevy Impala and a Mac is an Audi-but, as a CIO, I am more worried about where we are going than the car we are driving."

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