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Tokyo University Goes Mac

September 25th, 2003

Next April, Tokyo University, considered the best public university in Japan (think U.C. Berkeley meets Harvard), has decided to replace its inventory of IBM PC’s running Linux with brand-new iMacs (linked news article in Japanese) next April, when the school makes its 5-year hardware swapout.

The reasons given? Ease-of-Use, fewer problems cropping up, and less maintenance required. The university will replace 1150 of its current 1400 computers when it does.

Now, if only my college would do the same! We can’t even get reasonable maintenance for our PC’s, and the IT guys we hire to run our networks seem to be less than excellent at keeping things running right. They had no idea how to deal with Macs, either, even within the Windows environment. Several years before OS X came out, I asked if they could make the Windows network at school more open to Macs; they swore up and down that it was flat-out impossible. I asked them to look into it more; they said they did, and couldn’t find a way to connect my iBook to the system. So I had to rely on DAVE, a Mac program that emulated a PC network connection. But after two years of this intermediate solution, I heard that our IT guys were absolutely wrong: all along, Windows had a feature called “Services for Macintosh,” very evident and easy to find, that, when switched on, let me connect with no problem, without special software. Typical Windows network mentality: simply expect that Macs can’t do anything.

They were even more surprised when I showed them OS X, and how I needed their help even less. I could go to the Windows server myself and simply create a user account, and then OS X would do the rest. The upcoming Panther (10.3) version of OS X will make connecting even easier–no login dialog even, just open a network folder and boom, there’s the PC network. Cool.

Anyway, back to the Tokyo U. story: one thing this goes to show, an important why-to-get-Mac reason, is that while Mac hardware is still a bit more expensive than PC hardware (less so if you compare performance and quality, rather than simple GHz numbers), you wind up saving more money in training and maintenance.

About time more people started realizing this. Remember, when your IT guy insists that Macs are too expensive, s/he is arguing less about cost to the business and more about I-want-to-keep-my-job. It’s like asking a Safeway Manager if you should shop at Costco instead–self-interest gets in the way.

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