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Where do I get new PCs for my business?

The new PC you're buying may not last as long as you think.

The new PC you're buying may not last as long as you think.

Things got really ugly this year in the PC market, which should have most small business owners concerned.  If you're a business owner and you need new PCs, who do you buy from?  If you don't think this is a big issue, just read the news: Earlier this month Sony announced that it's getting out of the PC business by selling off its VAIO product line. This begs the question: 

  • Will the PCs you buy today be supported by the company who made them next year?  
  • Will that company even be around?  
  • Will the cost of support triple, or in the case of some PC makers like HP and Gateway, will it take weeks to get a service part, putting your employee out of commission until you buy a new PC while you wait for a repair?  
  • Which PC company is a safe bet?  How can you be sure?  

I found a really great solution that business owners love.  It's worked brilliantly in several different businesses, including law firms, art dealers, accounting firms, and in architects' offices.  

First, a couple disclaimers: Neither I or my company sell PCs.  We're not an authorized reseller for anyone. And we don't receive commission or kickbacks from PC makers.  TechRoom is a multi-vendor service-only provider, which means we're experts on Microsoft and Apple Mac.  And we have hundreds of customers carry almost every kind of Windows PC you can imagine into our office, ranging from Dell to HP to Alienware to some of the most ugly generic PC boxes you can imagine folks buy from the techie-Jawas who make a living building those poor things.

I already blogged about the key to the solution a while back.  Here's the link.  The big news back then was that Microsoft officially announced that Apple's Mac OS X is upgradeable to Windows.  Yes, Microsoft says Mac OS X is upgradeable to Windows 7 or even Windows 8.  So what does this mean?

Let's say you're due to replace a bunch of Windows-based computers. Or even one. But with PC makers going belly up, or with the bulk of their service and support personnel being laid off (link to San Jose Mercury News), you're wondering which PC will be reliable in your office.  You also want inexpensive.  The computers might only be needed for administrative work including Microsoft Office, Internet apps, printing and basic network needs.

Enter the Mac Mini.  It's inexpensive at $599.  And it runs Windows.  Assuming you don't want to buy new displays, you don't need to.  The Mac Mini uses standard PC displays and mice and keyboards, so you really don't need to buy any more peripherals.  All you need to do is get a Microsoft license and now your cost of Windows is the upgrade price, not the full price.  

And it gets even better:  You can run Windows 7.  Yes, you can avoid Windows 8 entirely. Try doing this with Dell and you'll end up buying machines you become completely dependent on. The licenses don't move from Dell to Dell.  That means you get stuck with hidden expenses later. With the Mac, you can keep and move your Windows license from Mac to Mac whenever you want, probably for several years.

Now it gets even better.  Let's say you are interested in eventually switching your business to Mac. Or maybe you're hiring employees that are just coming out of school that are used to Mac and never used a PC. Now you don't need to go buy a different computer.  All you need is to reboot and configure it for the new employee.  Nifty, right?

When a business owner asks me if Macs will work in their business, I tell them it's not an all or nothing decision.  You can have both and they can play well together.  The Mac Mini is a great way for businesses getting ready to move offices, or replacing computers, to make a great investment that will pay off in the long run.  And Apple's not going anywhere.  Last time I looked at their market cap, Apple was almost 19X bigger than Dell, and they could buy Dell cash without borrowing a dime, and Apple has almost 7X more cash in the bank than Dell is even worth on paper.

RAND used to be hot.  Times change, and new thinking helps us survive change.

Back to Sony for a second.  A lot of folks who watch stocks claim that Sony's intent to sell off VAIO wasn't a huge surprise.  I find that assertion rather silly if they don't understand the Japanese. Back in the 1990s that Sony continued pushing into the American personal computer market for years, even selling computers at a loss for years just to gain marketshare. But things have changed for the Japanese. In the past two years many Japanese companies did what was necessary to regain profitability when the Japanese Yen, imports and a distraught American economy all hit home, and hard.  The biggest things they did were sell off unprofitable businesses, ranging from TVs, radios, home appliances, and yes... PCs.  Sony's not the first, but they are the biggest.  The hint here is that what the Japanese do is often times a foreshadowing of things to come in the US market.  

How long until your PC maker cuts bait?