By PETER GRIFFIN
The law firm Brookfields has undertaken a $165,000 Apple Mac upgrade as an internal IT audit over-rules a carefully considered move to PCs.
Brookfields, a Mac user since 1995, has just bought 64 iMac machines and will upgrade the rest of its 145-strong network of machines in the next year.
It remains one of the larger Apple users in the country, running a network of Macs for all of its desktop computing needs.
For years the domain of desktop publishers, designers, trendy advertising agencies and schools, Macs are beginning to pop up more in the corporate environment.
Their price has dropped along with those of PCs, more software is becoming available that is Mac OS compatible and the aesthetics of Apple, which many consider to have the best looking product line up, is now more affordable.
Brookfields general manager Kevin Hall said the cost per desktop unit was lower.
"Our IT staff numbers would need to double if we were to run the equivalent amount of PCs. "It is very easy to maintain a Mac network, we have just four staff who manage the website, intranet, staff training and support for 145 Macs."
Brookfields has had problems trying to run some Windows-based law practice management software.
But the thin-client software Citrix allowed a range of PC-centric software programs to be delivered to the Macs from a server.
Brookfields' IT manager, Ade Dykstra, was testing Citrix on the network and was ready to implement it for programs where necessary.
Although Apple has a small slice of the computer market, Dykstra said support was good. Brookfields had used systems integrator Imagetext since 1995 with good results.
"The purchase prices of the Macs is fine and the lifespan of a Mac appears to be a little longer.
"Most companies seem to be replacing PCs at three years. We've got six-year-old Macs on the network."
An old Quadra 605 with all of four megabytes of memory was still running the library database.
Corporate Mac users face a similar licensing system for Mac OS versions to Windows users. But Brookfields was saving money by running some Apple applications in favour of Microsoft software.
AppleWorks was the spreadsheet of choice, which allowed Brookfields to avoid buying individual MS Excel licences.
But the law firm runs the Mac version of Office and two Windows NT servers, one for laser printing across the network, the other running Mail Marshall for Brookfield's email requirements. Brookfields ran a Mac OS 9 and OS X dual platform.
Other "mission critical" applications used include Quick Mail, Meeting Maker and software for digital dictation and research.
The company also runs two Sun Solaris servers for their practice management and document management software, and six Mac servers.
Paul Johnstone, managing director of Apple distributor Renaissance, said Brookfields was one of the larger users. Other large Mac users include Cookie Time, which has integrated mobile devices into its network, Wellington company Access Technology, which runs a large call centre largely on Macs, and travel agency Flight Centre, which runs Citrix over Macs, some of which are seven or more years old.
Australian second-ranked telco Optus has the largest Mac installations in Australasia, boasting some 5000.
But news broke late last year that the company was beginning to replace them with Windows-based PCs as part of a platform consolidation strategy with its parent company, SingTel.