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10/4/2007
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Apple In Business: Riding The iPhone Wave

Macs and new software get a second look from IT departments nudged by iPod-toting employees.

Four years ago, PAR used mostly Windows PCs. Now half of the 16-person software development staff at the company uses MacBook Pro laptops for writing Java apps. Most recently, PAR tested a Dell PC and Mac Pro, both with similar features: eight CPU cores, a terabyte hard drive, and 4 Gbytes of RAM. Despite Apple's reputation for being the more expensive option, the Mac Pro ended up being $800 cheaper than the $4,000 Dell machine, says Fey.

There are about 20 Macs deployed at the Florida Association of Realtors, a 100-person professional services organization. The association just purchased three more servers. "There's not a lot of freezing or crashing, and in the last four years we haven't had a single storage failure with the Xserve," says system administrator Jeremy Matthews.

Apple's new generation of iMacs, unveiled in August and starting at $1,199, are designed to compete on price and performance with midrange PCs. The updated iWork suite includes a Numbers spreadsheet application (capable of importing and exporting Excel documents) and other capabilities that make it a direct competitor with Microsoft Office. iWork is priced at $79, compared to Office's $300 retail price. Apple has sold 1.8 million copies of iWork, Jobs said in September, adding "We see the iMac having some traction in business."

An upcoming "Leopard" version of Mac OS X, due this month, will offer features likely to attract businesses, not the least of which is improved security. Leopard will come with file-sharing preferences that show which folders a Mac is sharing, providing more control over who can access shared folders. Leopard has been sandboxed, meaning protected from hackers trying to hijack an application to run malicious code. Sandboxing puts restrictions on applications and which files they can access.

Leopard also features a "Time Machine" that keeps an up-to-date copy of everything on a Mac, including system files, applications, accounts, preferences, multimedia, and documents. But it's no ordinary backup application. It takes a memory snapshot of how the system looked like on any given day, so a user can go back in time and revisit their Macs in the past.

Training Camp, a provider of technical training courses, recently began offering a three-day Apple Certified Help Desk Specialist course. The course helps students pass Apple's own help desk certification test, though it's not certified or supported by Apple, says Joe Barnes, director of enterprise technology product management at Training Camp in Philadelphia.

Barnes uses a MacBook Pro running both Mac OS X and Windows Vista. "I'm just amazed at how wonderful Vista runs on a Mac piece of hardware," he says. If businesses had the knowledge of what the Mac can do, he adds, "they may take a second look at them." A growing number of companies seem to be doing just that.

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