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9/12/2006
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Apple's Bet on Integrated Videoconferencing Pays Off

I have been working on a SUSE Linux desktop for both my home and work computer for some time now, and I felt that it was time to change my home computer.  After doing some research, I decided the MacBook Pro would be a great addition to my computer collection.  For those of you who have not kept up with Macs, the Mac now runs on an Intel processor, allowing Mac users to run Windows, Linux, and Solaris virtual machine images on their Mac.  I thought this would be very handy to help test different applications on multiple-operating systems without having to reboot.  But the MacBook Pro's built-in videoconferencing technology has been a real eye opener.

After making my decision, I ventured out to several Mac stores to see what options were available.  The first Mac store I went to was the Brigham Young University (BYU) Bookstore. Because it is the beginning of the school year, the bookstore had a lot of great offers for PC and Mac computers. The most popular offer was for a 2.0GHz Intel Core Duo MacBook laptop that included one GB of memory and a 100 GB 5400-rpm Serial ATA drive for a total of $1299.99.  The laptop also came with a $200 iPod rebate. The store manager told me that this model was sold out, and they already had 50 back-ordered.  Prior to this last sell-out, the store had 30 back-ordered.

One of my friends attending an MBA class at BYU told me that the first day of class he saw just one Mac in his entire class.  By the end of the week, there were 16 Mac users.  The store manager told me that Macs were in greater demand than PCs. 
 
I ventured to another store that focused on Apple computers, and the store manager told me that reaching their quota on Mac sales was easy and that demand was greater than their forecasted supply.  I bought my MacBook Pro on the last day of the month and it was their last one. When I asked the manager what the reason was for such high demand, he told me that besides Mac's brand appeal, the built-in camera has been a hit.  He said a business recently replaced all their PCs with Macs. The reason for the switch was that Macs have a built-in camera (called iSight) that now allows the company's employees to easily collaborate with each other.  Some PCs have the same feature, but when adding up the software and camera costs, the costs for either solution became very comparable.  Plus, with the Mac's built-in camera, users do not have to fuss with the camera.  The company buying the Macs had several remote offices and wanted to reduce travel without decreasing the benefits of being face-to-face.
 
20060912tedjamulia01.jpgI decided to try out the iSight camera and was very impressed.  Having a built-in camera makes the system a lot easier to use.  The picture quality is clear, and the built-in microphone also facilitates hands-free communication. Seeing the person you're collaborating with adds a personal touch and enhances the familiarity of participants. (You can see what a videoconference looks like, right, using Apple's iChat AV system - it provides a 3D view of participants.)
 
I do not think the camera feature is the only reason Mac sales have taken off, but I find it very fascinating that the integrated camera was a driving reason for one business to switch from PCs to Macs.  I wonder what would happen if Mac and Linux software companies included additional collaboration tools out of the box. Would they be able to increase their desktop sales to business users? Maybe collaboration tools are the killer applications for Mac and Linux desktops. What do you think?

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