Cost vs. price. There’s a difference. A free car has no price tag, but it has an operational cost, sometimes referred to, over the life of a vehicle, as the ‘total cost of ownership.’ Among Mac and Windows PC aficionados there’s been a subset to that raging battle. Generally speaking, Macs are more expensive because the average Mac is priced substantially higher than the average PC. But that’s price. What about cost of ownership and how should that be measured?
If Time Is Money
Here’s a good example of price vs. cost in the total cost of ownership issue. Microsoft’s Office suite of applications comes with a price tag; either an upfront cost for the product, on a per user basis, with a subsequent upgrade price, or, an annual subscription fee. But that’s just the price tag, not the total cost which would also include product training, deployment, support, and time spent using the product.
Mac and PC users have a number of free Office alternatives, so the upfront price of using an Office-like suite of apps is reduced, but what about the above ongoing costs which make up the total cost of ownership (ToC)? Much of what constitutes ToC is subjective and evidence one way or the other can be accepted or argued.
Federico Guerrini on how local governments often approach the ToC issue, in this case with Microsoft Office:
Is it better for local government bodies to use open source or proprietary software? It’s an argument that generates heated opinion on both sides. Supporters of the former highlight the savings that come from getting rid of licenses, while those who prefer the latter argue that proprietary products need little training to use and, generally speaking, boast a wider set of features.
One case study from Italy illustrates the second point of view. Between 2011 and 2014, the municipality of Pesaro, in the Marche region, trained up its 500 employees to use OpenOffice. However, last year the organization decided to switch back to Microsoft and use its cloud productivity suite Office 365.
Their action to switch from free to subscription seems to go against the grain of common sense (and the study which prompted the action was partially funded by Microsoft, so consider the source; because, you know, lies, damned lies, and statistics), but it all depends upon how the ToC is measured. So it is with Mac vs. Windows PCs, or iPhone vs. Android smartphones.
Apple continues to make inroads to the enterprise because studies have show that Macs require less time and effort to maintain, Mac users are more self sufficient users which results in lower support costs, lower training costs, and Mac hardware lasts longer which further amortizes the cost of using a Mac. Those are general statements, though, and every case may be different.
For example, Windows users often purchase additional anti-malware applications which take time to install and need to be used regularly. Malware itself, far more prevalent on Windows PCs, results in a higher maintenance cost vs. a Mac, where OS X has far less malware.
What of iPhone, iPad, vs. Android mobile devices?
In the U.S. Apple’s iPhone and iPad make up the majority of enterprise usage, despite the price tag being much higher than comparable Android-based devices, which often suffer from both security and infrequent OS updates. Enterprise IT departments prefer a steady roadmap of product upgrades and updates and an easy deployment method for applications, which Apple provides in iPhone and iPad.
Setup and ongoing training are additional expenses to consider with the deployment of any hardware and software, and Apple’s products have a stellar reputation for durability, security, and a lower cost of ownership than competing products (despite IT groups which often denigrate Apple’s products because they know that deploying a Mac or iPhone in a company may reduce their own job security).
Total cost of ownership is not an issue that is likely to go away any time soon. While the price tag of hardware and software is tangible and not subjective, the ongoing costs of managing a technology purchase are many and varied and subject to multiple perspectives.
What’s your perspective? Have you found iPhone and Mac to be less expensive overall than competing products? What about where you work? Who determines ToC and what methodology is employed?