A few days ago I wrote a post, "The Apple value proposition?" which was my way of weighing the pros and cons of buying a MacBook Pro or a Sony Vaio. At the time I was a little frustrated with software availability for the Mac and the pricing differential that I believe Apple is maintaining on their new Intel based products.
As is often the case in the technology world, when the digital ink quickly flows onto you screen, it even more quickly gets out of date.
Just so you know that I wasn't picking exclusively on Apple this time, I also penned an article, "Linux Revisited in 2006, a missed opportunity," over on one of my other blogs. In it I was complaining about not being able to get my wireless connectivity going on my Ubuntu Linux that I run on my Dell laptop.
It my mind, I was getting to point of thinking why fight it anymore? Just buy the Sony and quit carrying my Powerbook to work. Get reconciled with it, lose my soul and get on with this dark side stuff. After all it was looking like we might settle on something like ACT! as opposed to SalesForce.com for our sales team. The first thing that happened to change this was our CEO. Basically he wanted something less complex and web driven for the sales force. He was worried about having to maintain specific software on our sales people's hardware.
That sent me out looking at more basic web CRM tools, but it also opened the door for me to explore using a very simple Filemaker Pro web driven solution that would fit us exactly.
This quickly has focused us away from platform specific applications. That's a very good thing since where I work is a web driven company.
The next thing that happened is that director of customer service saw my post on Linux and just happened to have some time to fix the wireless problem I was having with Ubuntu. He is one of the people who uses Linux as his operating system of choice. He's a KDE Ubuntu user/fan, and certainly someone who has at least expressed interest in the Mac world and how it interacts with the Linux world. While he was fixing my wireless problem, I mentioned the problem I was having with our Dell 1600N printer which I was trying unsuccessfully to use as a Bonjour printer.
Being an Apple guy I was more interested in seeing the Bonjour technology work. I had lost sight of the simpler goal of just getting printing going. He suggested just using the Dell printer as an IPP printer with generic Postscript drivers. Of course it worked.
So here I am in a multi-platform office with everything that I need actually working on three different platforms. Well, everything except we're still wrestling with a strange bug in one Linux program that I just decided to replace with another one. So ignoring that I can't use my first choice Linux program for this one task, we're very close to that nirvana, and we didn't have to go to a single platform to get the false illusion of it.
I've heard many CIOs over the years talk about the advantages of a single platform. I was pretty close to buying into the idea. Now there might be some good reasons to go single platform such as cost, but I suspect that just depends on how you figure the cost.
There are some better reasons not to go single platform. As a CTO of very important federal agency once told me, "Managed diversity has great value in an organization." In our case and the case of many organizations like us, it needs to be part of our DNA.
At our company we provide leading edge hosted email solutions to over 16,000 businesses. Among those businesses there is every possible variety of platforms, email clients and browsers using our services. You can try as hard as you want through testing to uncover all the things that don't work in a particular situation, but it is nearly impossible to do. If, however, you have actual users of a particular client, browser, or platform actually involved in day to day use inside your company, I believe it builds a better product which of course helps you become a stronger company.
We really don't care what platform you use. What we want you to have is an unparalleled experience when using our email services either with your regular email client or accessing your mail through our web interface. We want Mac and Linux users to have the same great experience as Windows users. Any business that doesn't is just writing off a portion of their market or just too lazy to address it.
Having people in house who love particular platforms helps us create better products and services. So here I am wondering how many companies out there don't have some sort of customer facing web presence? Probably very few these days. Certainly I know that almost all government agencies have a strong focus on having successful customer facing web presences.
So here's a thought for all those companies and agencies who want to move more and more to the web for a variety of reasons from cost savings, to increasing their reach and customer loyalty.
Wouldn't it also benefit your organization to have a few Mac and Linux users around if for no other reason than to test your services and to create the same kind of unparalleled experience that we strive for here.
Then for you Mac users that are in similar situations to me, surrounded mostly by Windows users with a few Linux users, I have just given you a good reason to go to your boss and ask for one of those new MacBook Pro systems. I believe have created a very good self-sustaining hardware upgrade justification for those of us who remained hooked to the Mac platform in spite of the challenges that might come out of Cupertino. Just consider it a sales tool to getting new hardware on your desk.
Of course there are other benefits to platform diversity, the chief one being that people are just more productive and innovative when you let them use the tools they know and love.
Then again some places don't care about either productivity or innovation. Fortunately we do, and it is at the heart of our success in getting new customers and keeping the ones we have very happy.