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Red and blue boxing gloves clashing over the total cost of ownership for Macs vs PC in the enterprise.
May 12, 2020 by Jonathan Locast

Total cost of ownership: Mac versus PC in the enterprise

If the upfront cost is more, how can Mac be less expensive than PC? We examine the numbers and put the Mac versus PC in the enterprise myths to bed.

In January 2020, Microsoft ended its extended support for Windows 7. It was a pivotal point for organizations and the millions of users leveraging Windows 7 who were forced to assess their hardware and software needs. 10 years ago, this may have simply been a time to upgrade to Windows 10, but now, with the rise of Mac in the enterprise, is the perfect time to make a change. And this holds true even with the release of Windows 11, as PC users continue to lag behind on updating their devices, unlike their Mac counterparts.

Mac has risen in popularity with consumers and users to the point where businesses are not only forced to take notice, but to react by investigating the potential benefits, cost savings and results of offering their employees Apple. This trend, made possible by the consumerization of IT, has younger, tech-savvy workers demanding to use the hardware they use at home in the workplace — Apple.

"I’ve said it before,” says, IBM’s CIO, Fletcher Previn “when did it become OK to live like the Jetsons at home but the Flintstones at work?”

We don’t believe it is.

When contemplating offering Mac to your workforce, the question of cost inevitably comes up. “Macs are great, but I can buy two PCs for the same price as one Mac,” is a common mentality within IT departments. However, when comparing the total cost of ownership associated with providing basic services, software, management and support, the outcome (surprising to some) favors Mac over PC. We examine the numbers and put the Mac versus PC in the enterprise myths to bed.

Employee satisfaction and productivity

In 2019, Previn presented at JNUC for the third time and offered first-of-its-kind research that showed how Mac enables employees to be more productive and successful, along with striking improvements to job satisfaction and employee retention.

With tools in their hands that employees want to use, IBM’s research showed 22% more macOS users exceeded expectations in their performance reviews compared to their Windows-using coworkers and responded with a 47.5 net promoter score versus Windows user’s 15 net promoter score. In addition to a higher net promoter score, IBM’s Mac users were 17% less likely to leave IBM, showcasing the gap in levels of employee satisfaction and productivity.

Device preference is great, but employees need to feel like their devices have all the tools and software for them to perform at a high level. Mac users showed they were happier with the third-party software availability within IBM resulting in, well, better results. Only 5% of macOS users ask for additional software, compared to 11% of Windows users and this fulfillment was leading to astounding results. One stat showcased that high value sales deals tended to be 16% larger for macOS users, compared to Windows users.

To add to these benefits, Previn noted that within IBM, seven engineers support 200,000 macOS devices versus the 20 engineers required to support 200,000 Windows devices. That is a 186% increase in support engineering needed for Windows devices.

These stats may be on the softer side of Apple’s benefits, but it shows that companies have the ability to arm their team with devices that make them more productive and satisfied, less likely to leave and require less overall support. All of this achieved while bringing in more money for the company and costing less.

Numbers to support Mac users

To uncover key drivers of Mac adoption in the enterprise, Vanson Bourne, a global third-party market research firm conducted a study of Mac users who work for organizations that offer Mac as a choice, on why they choose and use Mac at work. Here’s a brief summary of the findings:

  • 97% say Mac increases their productivity
  • 95% say Mac increases their creativity
  • 94% say Mac increases self-sufficiency
  • 79% say they could not do their job as effectively without Mac
  • 70% say they experienced two or fewer issues on their Mac in the last 12 months (resulting in fewer IT help tickets)

When users are more satisfied and productive, the entire organization benefits.

Download the report to learn more.

Now back to the matter at hand, if the upfront cost for Apple devices is more how can the total cost of ownership be less? Let’s examine the findings from IBM.

Base Services
Every computer on an enterprise network needs a set of basic services. In particular, power and internet must be available. That cost is essentially the same for both platforms. Most organizations will bind a computer to their directory, with the most popular being Microsoft Active Directory. The cost of a Client Access License (CAL) for Active Directory, is the same for Mac and PC. Macs can easily be bound to directory services, such as Active Directory, and can use directory credentials to log in and map network drives.

Beyond power and a license for your directory service, you will also need to license other services required by your users to do their jobs. This is often a mail account, possibly cloud storage, access to a chat service, expense system, collaboration tools and more. The majority of these services have moved to the cloud and simply require modern web browser access. Since they are cloud-based, they work the same way for Mac as they do for PC, and vendors charge the same price regardless of platform.

Next, users need access to software. Mac comes with most applications a user needs right out of the box: Safari web browser, Mail, Calendar, Contacts with Exchange support, and productivity apps like Keynote, Pages and Numbers. However, not everyone is comfortable with Apple’s built-in apps so most organizations choose to deploy Microsoft Office, which runs natively for macOS. Since introducing Office 365 a few years back, Microsoft has standardized the cost of Office on all platforms.

Finally, in addition to the software required for all users, organizations need to consider distribution points for deploying software to their users. Distribution points can be in the form of cloud storage or local servers running a standard file share. Regardless, this is the same cost for Macs and PCs.

Macs typically cost more than PCs. MacBook laptops from Apple start at $999 and go up from there depending on needs. Apple’s strategy for Mac has always been to build computers with high-end specs that are designed to last a long time. PCs, on the other hand, can range wildly in price because vendors will offer lower-end specs for price-conscious buyers. Because of this, some PCs come in at half the cost of Mac.

It can be tempting to stop the conversation here and simply say “our organization can’t afford Mac.” However, a deeper study of all the essential software required for security and deployments demonstrates how the uptick in cost for Mac is something of a mirage.

Essential Software
All Macs include a copy of macOS free of cost. Apple only builds one version of its desktop operating system, so there are no discrepancies in features and users gain a consistent experience. macOS can be bound to a domain (including Active Directory), is shipped with full disk encryption (called FileVault) and even protects against malware (utilizing XProtect) as soon as the device is turned on — with no additional software required.

On the contrary, Windows 10 requires enterprise organizations to either add these features, purchase the “Pro” version, or both. Microsoft sells Windows 10 Pro for $199. The Pro version is required to bind a PC to your domain and to get full disk encryption (called BitLocker). Additionally, most organizations add antivirus software on top of Windows to protect against malware and viruses that have plagued and continue to plague PCs.

Finally, organizations need a method to deploy computers to new employees. Just like encryption and malware protection, Apple offers a solution that is built into macOS — known as Apple Business Manager. This program allows organizations to order Macs (and iOS/iPadOS devices) and have them flagged as corporate-owned. When that device boots up for the first time, it checks the serial number with Apple’s database and forces enrollment of a corporate-owned device. From there, a management system can load additional applications and settings. This is a tremendous time and cost savings over traditional imaging.

A management system is essential for both Mac and PC in an enterprise environment. A proper desktop management system allows IT departments to deploy new devices, configure settings remotely, deploy and update software, gather extensive inventory and ensure security. Microsoft offers Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager (MECM) to manage Windows. This is the most popular management tool for Windows. Additionally, Microsoft also offers Microsoft Endpoint Manager (MEM) which expands MECM capabilities by adding mobile device management (MDM). Most organizations purchase both tools from Microsoft to fully manage Windows.

Once again, Apple is different. Apple builds a management framework (known as MDM) into its operating systems. Jamf —the standard for Apple Enterprise Management — is able to leverage this framework, plus additional software installed to remotely manage Macs. Jamf provides immediate support for new macOS releases. Organizations can leverage Apple deployment programs and security tools to enjoy a complete ecosystem of Mac management capabilities. Organizations can even create a custom app catalog with Jamf Self Service and enable users to install IT-approved apps and settings on their Macs. Users are notified when new tools and content become available, empowering them to be as productive as possible.

By the time we reach the final stack of the total cost of ownership model, you can see that Macs are already less expensive. Beyond basic services, hardware and software, and management tools, you also need to support your users. Support staff and help desk resources will always vary based on organizational demands. It has been anecdotally reported for a long time that Mac users require less support than their PC counterparts.

Recently, IBM — who have deployed nearly 200,000 Macs — have provided concrete data to support this claim. IBM reports that PC users drive twice the number of support calls versus Mac users. Plus, out of those tickets that are opened, only five percent of Mac users end up requiring an in-person visit. PC boasts a troublesome 27 percent of tickets that require IT visits. Additionally, IBM only staffs a fraction of IT staff to manage Macs compared to the number who are required to manage Windows. While these stats are for the largest Mac deployment in the enterprise, the trend applies to smaller organizations who add Macs to their environment.

Let’s recap those staggering findings
While Mac hardware alone is more expensive than PCs, there are many more factors to consider when deploying Macs. Thanks to most core services moving to the cloud and becoming cross platform, the cost is now a wash between Mac and PC.

Any organization serious about managing and securing Windows will need to add additional software and tools to the cost of their cheap PC, as opposed to having those features built into the operating system with Mac. Finally, when you add on the cost of management tools and support, the total cost of ownership gap can potentially be huge for an organization. In fact, IBM found they saved between $273 - $543 per Mac they deployed compared to PCs.

As you can see, the debate is over when it comes to the actual cost of computers in your environment.

If you’re ready to start taking Mac seriously and saving big dollars in the process, please contact us. If you’re still on the fence, learn more about the benefits and discover why employees value them now more than ever — and why organizations should, too.

Let Jamf and Apple save you money

Photo of Jonathan Locast
Jonathan Locast
A Jamf and Apple expert writing in SMB and Enterprise spaces for every aspect of the Jamf portfolio.
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