The Single Platform Myth

A lie told often enough becomes the truth.
Lenin (1870 – 1924)

One platform, usually meaning having just one type of computer in an organization, is a better way to conduct business than having multiple platforms. That is a pretty interesting concept that has been going around ed tech departments and district IT departments for years. Let me see if I hear the argument correctly:

One platform is cheaper.
One platform is easier to train on.
One platform is what the kids will experience when they go into the ?real world.?
One platform reduces overall costs.

Okay, let?s look at these from a logical point of view, and try real hard to keep the evangelizing out of it. I am willing to concede any well thought out argument, but so far, I haven?t really heard any.

Let?s first look at the idea that there is in fact, a true ?one platform.?
In my experience, one platform usually means ?Windows.? I have never heard an IT guy saying ?let?s switch to Mac as a single platform.? So, for our argument, one platform means Windows.

So is there ?one platform? in the Windows world? According to the website, there have been at least 16 (now more since the release of Vista and Win 7–TH) versions of Windows out there, not including the BOBs, ME?s or the CE?s, or the handhelds. Granted, many of those versions are long gone, but in my district we still have computers running 98, 2000, and XP. So we have at least three versions of an operating system. So I think we can safely say, that at least in the OS department, Windows is NOT a single platform. (Let us not even discuss what the open source crowd does to a PC once they get their hands on one…Windows, fergit about it!) I shudder to think about Vista and all of it?s related bugs when it arrives. But I digress.

We then take a look at the hardware. In my district, we don?t buy the same computer year after year after year. It has something to do with technology moving in a forward direction, oh and low bids. The computers we buy today do not look, internally at least, like the computers we bought three years ago, or last year for that matter. RAM, hard drives, motherboards, even from the same vendor, change at least twice a year. And we don?t even buy from the same vendor. We have IBMs, Dells, Gateways, and HP?s out there. Desktop and laptops. One platform? Heck, we can?t even say one computer.

So, I think that without much heavy lifting, we can say that there really isn?t a true ?one platform? out there, even in the Windows world.

So, now let?s look at the idea that one platform is cheaper. Another interesting idea. I don?t know about you, but this idea usually comes from IT nerds that are great at wiring Lans and WANS and VLANS and such, but couldn?t balance a checkbook if the starting balance was $10 and no checks were ever written. No one ever looks at this little thing called ?Total Cost of Ownership.? What does this device cost, with all associated costs, over the lifetime of it?s usefulness?
Warranty costs
Software costs
Virus Protection costs

All of these are part of the total cost of ownership, but what I usually see happen in education is that school boards are wowed by the initial cost, or as we call it in the biz, the low bid. If that PC there costs $600, then by-gawd it is better than that one over there that costs $800. There are many examples that show Macs are in fact, cheaper in the long run to maintain because they break down less often and last longer than a typical PC. Don?t tell me that a Dell desktop with a separate monitor takes less electricity to use each year than an iMac. I simply do not buy that! One article in Network World magazine actually showed that Macs cost about $1800 a year to maintain, and a typical PC costs over $4000 a year. (Read it here) Even the Linux -is-better-because-its-free crowd never take into account the TOC. Can you say ?Server??

Anyway, if anyone said ?Macs are cheaper in the long run? in an IT department anywhere in the US, people would roll their eyes to heaven, and start shaking like Lewis Black on a Mt. Dew IV. Why is that? Here is a little tidbit from a TOC paper produced by the Santa Monica Technology Committee:

It comes down to the IT Department Full Employment Act. … Macs reduce IT head count while Linux probably increases IT head count, simple as that. … Ideally, the IT department ought to recommend the best computer for the job, but more often than not, they recommend the best computer for the IT department’s job. (Robert Cringely) (Similar assessment here from Mike Thomas of the Orlando Sentinel .)

(Read the entire report here)

Then there is another concept called ?Return on Investment? or ROI. What platform has a better ROI? In order to figure that out, one has to look at productivity of the people using the computers and what it takes to train these folks. If I can train people and make them work harder, then the computer has a better return on investment. Which platform has a better ROI? Read what Lockheed Martin says:

The independently funded report says Mac users in the digital-media production sector, such as advertising, marketing and Web development, produce on average $26,441 more annual revenue and $14,488 more net profit per person than Windows users of comparable skill engaged in similar work activities.
(Read the entire report here)

But, say the IT geeks boys: When kids graduate, they will be using Windows in the ?real world.? Another interesting concept. They wont be using 2000, or XP, or Vista. Will kids in any grade other than 10th and above be using the same operating system that is on the computers in school now, in the ?real world?? If I am in 1st grade today, what will Windows look like 12 years from now? Word? Excel? maybe similar, but not exactly the same. No more different I would think, that Mac looks today from what they will be using in the future. As a matter of fact, Bill Gates once said
?To create a new standard, it takes something that?s not just a little bit different, it takes something that?s really new and really captures people?s imagination and the Macintosh, of all the machines I?ve ever seen, is the only one that meets that standard.?

Maybe the Mac should be the ?single platform? huh?


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This entry was published on May 17, 2012 at 12:43 am and is filed under Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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