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Deal eventually expected to spark enterprise interest in Macs

Will Apple’s move to Intel chips impact business?

Even though Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced last June that Macintosh computers would move to Intel chips, he surprised everyone at the mid-January Macworld Expo when he introduced the retrofitted iMac and the MacBook Pro, a laptop with the new chips, several months ahead of schedule.

“With the Mac OS X (operating system), plus Intel’s latest dual-core processor under the hood, the new iMac delivers performance that will knock our customers’ socks off,” Jobs boasted.

Could the new Mac-tel help push Macs into the business-computing world? Rick Chaney, owner of User Friendly in Madison, an Apple Macintosh specialist, believes it will.

“It used to be that 80% of my business was repeat Mac customers, the traditional graphic environment where people were basically doing Photoshop and Illustrator,” said Chaney. “But now I’m seeing home office and small office guys. Microsoft Office has made it possible for just about anyone to run a small business with a PC for years. There’s no secret that Apple has been doing the same thing on the same set of software.”

Kemper Brown, CEO of Electronic Office, a major builder of IT infrastructures and provider of Apple computers in office networks throughout the Southeast, isn’t so sure.

“Right now, this is a first step for Apple to integrate Intel into their machines,” he said. “Officially, Apple is saying this is a move to help them go faster, put faster and cooler processors in their computers. As far as Windows functionality or making it easier to have cross platforms, that’s not something they’re ready to go prime time with at this point. They won’t stop anyone from doing it who wants to access that, but my sense is that over the next couple of years, you’ll see this start to mean something to businesses.”

Todd Ballard, chief creative officer at GodwinGroup, said the switch “is great for Macintosh and good for the computer industry as a whole.”

“The Intel processor technology has been the gold standard in the computing world, so a marriage between the unique characteristics of the Macintosh and a more powerful processor can only make it a better machine,” he said.

No more BBQ

Apple’s decision to abandon Power PC processors and opt for Intel’s newest chip, the Core Duo, has Mac devotees all atwitter for a simple reason: comfort. New York Times writer David Pogue wrote on January 25 that “Apple’s existing PowerBook laptops already get so hot, the smell of barbecued meat practically wafts from your thighs.”

“The only way to get over that hurdle of heat and power consumption was to look at what was on the market, which is Intel,” said Chaney. “That’s the reason Apple went there. You’re getting four times the speed and power of our previous notebooks. You’re getting a dual core processor, as well as some other things.”

The switch has prompted misperceptions among mostly non-IT business folks concerning how the change will affect operating systems.

“Once that chip migrated over into the Apple, people started jumping to the conclusion that we were going to get viruses and you’d be able to run PC software and all of this stuff,” said Chaney. “These machines aren’t going to do that. It’s still the Mac operating system. What’s more important to us is that Apple has gone to this chip for one reason: it’s a dual core processor.”

Brown said Apple operating systems “try to be compatible to a certain degree, and as OS X goes to XI and then to XII, there’ll be updates for those software packages.”

Could there be a movement toward computers running on Windows, OS X and Linux platforms?

“That really would be a very interesting scenario,” said Brown. “We’re thinking about Mac being able to reach into the Windows side, but also think of the opposite possibilities as well. I don’t think (Microsoft) will ever stop supporting and keeping up with it. For today’s versions that are out, a five-year window of support is reasonable, but I don’t think that they’re ever going to change their support of the Mac platform unless it went away. I think Microsoft is a major player on the Mac platform.”

By far, the Microsoft Windows platform is the most dominant, said Brown.

“You get to things like running Exchange and Outlook, and it’s a pretty clear decision for most businesses,” he said. “People are trying to standardize more, and not less.”

However, the Apple platform may be preferable in certain business scenarios, said Brown.

“It’s not going to out-of-the-box be able to run dual operating systems,” he said. “It’s very tantalizing, though, to think about where this is going.”

Ballard pointed out that Macintosh users are “very loyal, and for good reason.”

“Historically, Mac-based applications and programs haven’t always been available for PCs, and it’s also the preferred platform for users in creative disciplines,” he said. “That’s especially true for the advertising industry, and virtually everyone in our creative department prefers a Macintosh.”

Ballard’s only concern is the transition period.

“Traditional Mac software will not run on the new Intel-based Macs, so the manufacturers will need to move quickly to release universal application updates,” he said.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at Lynne.Jeter@gmail.com.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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