The Apple Enterprise Business Case: Happier Users

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As a consultant, I have the benefit of seeing the trends of many companies as well as the behaviors of my own firm.  One is the explosion of iPhones, as both sanctioned and unsanctioned enterprise devices.  Another is the buzz surrounding Apple desktops and laptops in the enterprise computing scene, to the point where some are buying iMacs and MacBooks on their own and trying to integrate them into their company’s computing environment.  Others are even carrying around two laptops - one for corporate email and network access and a Mac for everything else.

Don’t get me wrong - I am not a hater.  I have been an Apple fan since I was 12, playing with an Apple ][ my dad bought “himself” (kind of like the ’66 Mustang convertible he bought himself that ended up at college with me…).  The Apple ][ even nurtured my tinkering interests, spurred on by hobby software from the Beagle Brothers.

Unfortunately, Apples weren’t around at college (PCs and Turbo Pascal, instead) but I was re-introduced to them at one of my early consulting projects in Switzerland, where we used them for presentation development and Hypercard prototyping.  So, I’m a longtime and big fan, because of their great design - top to bottom.

I got an iPhone as soon as I could.  As far as I can tell, aside from the email typing challenges, cut-and-paste and a sub par calendar/appointment information sync between Exchange and iPhone, this is a great enterprise mobile device.  Hopefully, most of these issues will be fixed with the iPhone 3.0 release.

Now, I want a MacBook.

There are roadblocks, namely Apple’s pricing.  I have read the arguments about price and margin erosion, but I would imagine that there is some middle ground that could get Apple on the enterprise computing map, for real.  (I’m sure Dan Ariely would have a lot to say about their pricing and corporate buying behaviors - be sure to read his book.)

Actually, the base prices of “comparable” Mac and PC devices are similar.  However, PC resellers are discounting up to 40% while the highest Mac discount I have heard of is 7% for a very large consumer products company who plans to rollout Mac devices company-wide.   Apple recently announced a small discount on one device - nothing that represents a shift from their pricing strategy.

Aside from beautiful design and great usability, I’m not sure there is a great CFO-style business case to be had - maybe something about lower incident rates, higher MTBF or fewer viruses and malware attacks?

As a result, most companies have decided that it’s not worth it to buy Apples as they are hard to justify, especially in the current cost-cutting environment (netbooks, anyone?).  But for firms like the consumer products company I mentioned, they have put a price on user happiness - on the order of $500-600 per user.

How much are happier users worth to you?

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