Can You Run Your Business On A Mac?

Jennifer Shaheen, the Technology Therapist and speaker at the Third Annual Small Business Summit 2008, answers the question, “Can You Run Your Business On a Mac?”
About a year and half ago I wrote a blog entitled To Mac or To PC after viewing the television ads personifying a Mac and a PC. The blog discussed how the two computers are really not that different. The Mac advertisement pointed out general issues that implied said issues were PC-only traits; some of them, like PC’s are the only victim to a freeze, are not true. Needless to say, the Mac fans in the universe were not too happy with my blog. Since then I will confess that I have switched and work on a MacBook Pro everyday. Though many of you may attack me again, I stand by my August 2006 comment even more now.
A computer is a computer. The idea is still the same, regardless of using OS X (MAC) or Windows. For example, just like a PC, my Mac occasionally freezes when using certain applications. Now I have to remember to hit cmd + option + esc (to Force Quit in Mac speak) as opposed to hitting ctrl + alt + delete to see the programs running on my computer and End Task (PC speak).


The concept of using a computer hasn’t changed; the difference is just in how you carry out the task. Overall, I found that it was an adjustment and every so often, I confuse my ctrl with my cmd key, but that is just because old habits die-hard. Sure, you’re working on a different interface with different tools, but the thought process is still the same. If you truly understand how a computer operates, switching from Mac to PC and PC to Mac is just like switching from driving on one side of the road to the other; it may take some time to get used to things, but it is still driving.
What I have been exploring, however, is a question that a few of my clients have been struggling with now more than ever. Is it possible to run a business on a Mac?

For those of you not familiar with the debate between Mac and PC, the biggest difference between the two computers is the operating system. This should be the principal factor in your decision making process. The Mac’s operating system is called Leopard OS X and the PC’s is called Windows. In examining the biggest differences between the two computers it is not the hardware that is different, instead, it’s the operating system. For example, both computers still have RAM options – my Mac is a 2.33 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with 2 GB of RAM. You can get the same thing from Dell if you want in a PC.
But in a Windows saturated and dominated market, is it possible to abandon the PC altogether? The Mac can become your PC (personal computer) but I think the more important question is, do we need Windows? The answer is not so simple.
Though it is possible to run a business today on a Mac, it is not probable that most companies will make the leap. Earlier on I confessed to migrating myself from a Windows-based PC to a Mac, but I never completely gave up Windows. My Mac is just a computer and within it I run a third-party application known as Parallels. This application allows me to run Windows on my Mac in a separate window. I chose this setup so I can quickly jump between 2 operating systems. As a consumer I feel I now have 2 computers for the price of one, but really it’s not true. I still had to purchase a separate, full version of Windows to install on my Mac.
Currently, I spend 80% of my time on the Mac OS X side and 20% on the Windows side. It is impossible for me to completely eliminate Windows in my business. Internet Explorer and other applications only made for Windows PC’s have made it too difficult for me to completely switch.
We should really begin by taking a moment to examine the factors that go into running a business through the use of a computer. What do you use your computer for on a daily basis in your business? Emailing clients, surfing the web, word-processing, use of spreadsheets reviewing your accounting and CRM applications are probably at the top of your list.
The first thing to consider about running your business on a Mac is the applications. Do they make a Mac version of your accounting package or your CRM program? If the answer is no, are you open to finding a solution compatible with Mac? Converting your business to Mac is possible if you can find solutions that work with the operating system.
One alternative to consider is reviewing Web 2.0 tools know as web-based applications. Moving to web based applications can be a great way to solve the compatibility issue. One important item to keep in mind here is to make sure you test the tools you are reviewing on a Mac and the compatibility with Safari and Firefox. Microsoft no longer makes Internet Explorer for Mac and while there are many fantastic web-based applications, many have been designed to work solely on Internet Explorer. Because of this, some web applications will not be an appropriate solution when working on a Mac.
Another key to making the switch is the support of your staff and colleges which is crucial to the success of any technology plan. It is important to not only consider the time involved in a possible migration to a new operating system and a new application, but also the change in productivity in your staff during the acclimation period.
Is it possible to run your business today on a MAC? Yes.
A computer is a computer, and if you want a Mac but can’t live without Windows you have two options. The first is the third-party application, Parallels, that I previously spoke about, and the second is Boot Camp which is built into OS X Leopard. Boot camp allows you to install Windows as an operating system on your Mac, and upon booting the computer you choose which side of the computer you want to access – the Mac side or the Windows side.
I am exploring more web-based applications for my company, but for now it has to be both for me. What will it be for you – OS X Leopard, Windows or both? The deciding factor should be the operating system not the box.

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Ramon Ray, Editor & Technology Evangelist, Smallbiztechnology.com . Editor and Founder, Smart Hustle Magazine Full bio at http://www.ramonray.com . Check him out on Google Plus, Twitter or Facebook

3 thoughts on “Can You Run Your Business On A Mac?

  1. Chip

    I think this article is a fantastic dissection of the most commonly asked question in computers today. It’s true that a computer is a computer, its really just the user interface/OS that makes the experiences different. Those who say well my Mac is better because it’s, well, a Mac, aren’t really seeing what’s behind the “box” (as you so brilliantly put it). You can find the exact same “guts” in a PC and vice versa. I personally enjoy the user experience Apple provides through the use of OSX, but I also see the importance and necessity for Windows. As a user who is faced with using both windows and OSX in my career, I have to say that frequently find myself getting frustrated with both operating systems equally, the real question for me is which just looks nicer while doing it!

  2. Rex Hammock

    I’ve run businesses on Macs for over 20 years — so it’s amusing to be reading this story in the year 2008.
    In graphics- and media- focused companies (like ours), Macs have always dominated our “factory” — where the work we do is produced.
    We’ve invested heavily throughout the years on keeping those “factory machines” as fast and efficient as possible as computer-time = money in our business. With our technical support focused on the machines best suited for our “factory,” we have always worked-around any business-app issues that using Macs may have created. And, frankly, the incompatibility issues have always been minimal as Microsoft has always offered its office suite in a Mac version that allows transfer of those files between the two platforms. Also, Intuit has offered software for both platforms for 20+ years.
    The only major hurdle we faced related to some online banking issues a few years ago during which our bank did not support the Mac-version of a web-browser. Such issues are history, however, as we now have all of our administrative-oriented Macs running parallels, which, if the need exists will allow them to toggle back and forth between Windows and the MacOS

  3. nicholas

    In my opinion the answer is both. We use PCs for some things (they are cheap, they run quickbooks better) and macs for others – email and video.
    The infrastructure of both my businesses is built on the web, so it doesn’t really matter what platform my employees use, so I let them choose whichever they are most comfortable with.

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