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Anticipated OS change should help Mac in business world, says User Friendly owner

Apple making inroads into PC-dominated Mississippi

The Mac market continues to explode in metro Jackson, with a buzz building about the latest Unix-based OS Mac.

“In the last two years, the Mac market has been just phenomenal,” said Rick Chaney of User Friendly in Jackson. “When the iMac came out, our world turned completely around. It’s the best thing that’s happened to Apple in quite a long time. We personally have sold over…I stopped counting at 400. But even with a small outfit like ours, with three personnel plus a service department, we sell one or two a day.”

Mac users are gaining ground, Chaney said.

“Professionals who want digital pre-press and publication, also media for Web creation, and a lot of what we call lone eagles, the one- and two-man shops that are doing newspaper or advertising, use Macs,” he said. “A lot of ad agencies use Macs to create content for their printers.”

Macs are honing in on the home market, Chaney said.

“The iMac seems to have become the computer of choice for the novice and even for people who have been strictly PC,” he said. “Home computer owners are starting to look at the Mac and say, ‘you know, there may be something to this.’ They usually come in and have us go through the demonstration with them and they’re very impressed. To us, we don’t think much about it because we’ve had it since 1984. A lot of people don’t realize how far along the Mac has come in such a short amount of time. Even though the colors on the iMac are splashy and make a big impression, the reality is that the hardware is the value of the machine. We get people that come in all the time and say, ‘wow, this thing is much faster than my 500 megahertz PC. It also does spreadsheets faster.’ Everything’s faster.”

Reenee Klein, manager of PC Warehouse said Macs encompass “a whole different world. Once every month or two, someone comes in and asks if we sell Macs, but we don’t, and we’ve never had anyone ask if we service them. Most of our customers come in knowing what they want and why.”

The Mac market has expanded to include business professionals who need work stations for secretaries to those who need full-blown work systems with DVD burners, a gigabyte of RAM and other programs that can be quickly loaded, Chaney said.

“J.D. Power rates everything from screwdrivers to space shuttles on how satisfied customers are, and their spin on Macs is, depending on when you check the survey, from 87% to 95% of Mac owners will repurchase a Mac,” he said. “There’s no truer testament to how well put together, how well thought out and how well executed the Mac hardware/software combination is and how easy it is for customers to use it and grow it into something the whole family or office can enjoy. There’s a lot less grief in that you never have to go to a C prompt, ever. You don’t have to worry about whether you’re on an A, C or D drive. It’s very easy to use.”

When Macs need repairs, about 95% is self-inflicted, Chaney said.

“We’ll have customers that erase the hard drive or couldn’t stand the itch to get into the systems folder and do something that needs to be fixed,” he said. “The other 5% are legitimate problems, but rarely do we get anything from Apple that’s D.O.A. out of the box. The few we do get are very specific.”

Apple’s next release will replace a very complicated underlying system software with a Unix-based platform, Chaney said.

“If you have a problem with an application, it’s not going to pull the whole thing down or restart your machine,” he said. “Especially in the business arena, this will be welcomed.”

Jay Longmire, owner of LINC-IT, a home-based computer repair business, said the unveiling of the new Mac is “extremely exciting news.”

“It will provide Macintosh with a chance to get on other platforms,” he said. “That means you’ll be able to put the Mac OS on an Intel-based processor. With the advent of Microsoft Office being imported to it, you’ll probably see a lot more people in different areas using it because of its stability. Crashing a Mac takes a bit of work. When you do, you have networking problems with the actual network.”

MIS departments are conspicuously absent from Mac-run businesses, Chaney said.

“They simply don’t need them,” he said. “Most people with a rudimentary understanding of Mac computers can eliminate the need to hire technically literate people that do nothing but work on Macs. We don’t have Mac training programs. Most people can put it on their desktop, get it working and be relatively free of having to be tied at the hip for lessons. We see people offering PC lessons in programs like WordPerfect. Although that’s OK, I don’t see it in the Mac world, except PhotoShop, Illustrator, Quark and other high-end programs that are market specific. They do warrant training, but it’s not needed just for the ownership of the machine.”

The key to the Mac is its proprietary relationship between its software and hardware, Chaney said.

“Apple has been able to control both processes, which has eliminated a lot of grief, instead of having one manufacturer build a machine to whatever specifications can make a profit, with the systems software manufactured by a company where you don’t get an automatic guarantee of compatibility,” he said. “On the other hand, with Apple, that’s it. The same people that make the hardware are the same people that make the software, and you, the consumer, are guaranteed that it will boot up and work right. Is it perfect? No, it’s not. There are problems with systems software. But by comparison, there’s no comparison.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at mbj@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018.


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