What it is: IBM defined the PC standard and for years relied on their own ThinkPad laptops for their employees. Now that IBM is no longer in the PC business, they’re planning to switch from Lenovo ThinkPads to Apple MacBooks.
At one time, IBM represented the corporate drone mentality that Apple rallied against. IBM typically represented the faceless, mindless corporate masses working like robots in a factory with no creativity of their own. Perhaps one time that was true, but after IBM bowed out of the PC market and sold their PC division to Lenovo, they clung to ThinkPads for the longest time. Now IBM is planning to offer their employees MacBook laptops as an alternative to Lenovo ThinkPads.
Why would IBM do this? First, the world is no longer solely a Windows PC world any more. In the old days, it only made sense to buy a Windows PC since that was the only computer that offered the most hardware and software support. Nowadays with the Macintosh software market growing and the steady shift to browser-based applications, the specific operating system you use isn’t as important any more.
Even more importantly, any Macintosh can run Windows through a virtual machine program like the free VirtualBox or the commercial Parallels or Fusion programs. With a Macintosh, you can run Windows as a virtual machine, but with a Windows PC, you can’t (legally) run OS X as a virtual machine. Thus a Macintosh gives you two computers in one (a OS C Macintosh and a Windows PC virtual machine). Right away the Macintosh has advantages that a Windows PC can’t match.
A second, less technical reason, is that many people want a Macintosh. Typically people tolerate a Windows PC because it’s what they use at work, but they prefer a Macintosh at home because it requires less maintenance. When given a choice, some people will opt for a Macintosh and some will choose Linux while others will prefer a Windows PC. It’s no longer the case that everyone needs a Windows PC. Even back in the days when everyone did need a Windows PC, not everyone liked using a Windows PC. They did it because they had no choices.
Now with so many people relying on smartphones, tablets, and alternative PC operating systems like OS X and Linux, there’s less of a need to use Windows. Windows thrived when people had no choices. OS X and Linux are thriving because people have choices. When you give people choices, not everyone will choose Windows, and that means a steady decline in the importance and influence of Windows in the overall computer market.
IBM already sees the future and it’s not in PCs and not in Windows. Now that IBM has openly embraced the Macintosh, it opens the doors for other major corporations to abandon their Windows-only mentality and allow more of a mix of computers based on what employees want, not what their IT department demands. The IT department should never choose the tools workers use. The IT department should always support whatever tools workers choose for themselves. The workers know what’s best for their productivity. The IT department only wants to standardize on certain equipment to make their own lives easier, which is like a waiter serving you whatever food he or she feels like giving you just because it’s convenient for the waiter, regardless of your own wishes. If you wouldn’t tolerate someone making choices for you for their convenience and not yours in a restaurant, why would you tolerate that at work?
When Windows can thrive only when people have no choices, that doesn’t speak well of the product’s quality or desirability. Lack of choices is what makes dictatorships appear to work.
IBM’s switch to the Macintosh is only the beginning. As more companies realize they have choices, they’ll be less likely to choose one particular operating system all the time. That’s good news for the Macintosh, but bad news for Windows. However, it’s good news for consumers and workers alike because it’s always better to make your own choices than letting someone else make them for you.