Computer Recommendation for Small Business

I frequently get asked by my clients about what kind of computer they should purchase. In the past I was somewhat reluctant to recommend a new Mac to a longtime Windows user, especially one that did not have a huge amount of computer expertise. It just sounded like a hassle on their part to have to migrate a bunch of data and learn a new operating system, and there were stability issues with Mac OS 9 and interface issues with Mac OS X that just made me think twice.

After walking the floor of this year’s Macworld show at Moscone Center in San Francisco yesterday, my reluctance has changed to enthusiasm. There were many new announcements that make Mac OS X the ultimate small business computing platform. I am now officially recommending Macs, and especially the PowerBook line, to anyone that asks about what kind of computer they should buy for their business.

First of all, the Mac OS X experience has become quite excellent, from both a user perspective as well as an administrator perspective. Mac OS is the most user-friendly operating system out there, and the performance of the recent versions of Mac OS X is really quite good.

The stability of Mac OS X is really a huge advantage over what I have seen from the Windows lineup. One of my biggest complaints I hear from my clients is that their computer keeps crashing or that they experience erratic behavior with their email/browser/net connections. Macs seem far more stable in this regard. Since the OS is built on top of a Unix-based core, the operating system itself is rock solid and rarely crashes. If an application itself fails, it does so without clobbering the other programs that may be running. Net connections and network configurations seem to be much more stable on Mac OS X, too.

Which brings me to another issue. When I have multiple programs running at the same time on the latest version of Mac OS X, I experience no performance degradation. My Windows box with the same amount of RAM and a faster CPU slows to a crawl.

But perhaps most importantly is the issue of software. Of course, Microsoft Office has been available for a long time on Mac OS X and the file formats are the same as on Windows so there are no compatibility concerns. There have been several very good accounting packages released for Mac OS X, including the quite excellent M.Y.O.B AccountEdge. But a glaring omission was the lack of Mac OS X support from Intuit for QuickBooks Pro. Thankfully, Intuit has now released an excellent version of QuickBooks for Mac OS X. I sat and watched the live demonstration at the show and was quite impressed with what they have done for Mac OS X users.

With either AccountEdge or QuickBooks, Mac OS X users will be well off in managing their small business financials. I mentioned earlier that PowerBooks were especially attractive buys for small business owners and this is why: All new PowerBooks are now being bundled with QuickBooks. Basically, if you buy a new PowerBook, you get QuickBooks for free. Clearly Apple is looking to expand their presence and build a support base in the small business market, and this is an excellent strategy given that corporate PC sales are so sluggish lately.

The new PowerBook lineup is actually quite impressive. There is a 12″ screen model that is quite compact and starts at $1799, and there are higher-end 15″ and 17″ screen models. For the small business owner, I recommend the 15″ model in most cases. This offers excellent portability with plenty of horsepower, and it can be plugged in to a second monitor for higher resolutions or dual monitor configurations.

To make the migration a success, Apple has set up a website with simple instructions. For anyone considering a new computer and who is not happy with their Windows experience, the Mac platform is a very attractive alternative that you can approach with confidence that you are making a wise decision. Reluctance is most often due to fear of the unknown, but I have not found nothing but advantages these days in using Mac OS X over Windows and I can finally recommend with confidence that the small business user give serious consideration to the Mac option.