IBM vs. Mac: Why Does It Matter to a Dentist?

In Innovation by Dental Entrepreneur

If you missed that half hour as a senior where your professor taught you about leadership and running a business, you were up the creek without a hand piece.

If you’re an open-minded dentist in private practice wanting to save money, save time and be more efficient, you will find this article informative and eye-opening. If you are among most dentists who have graduated from a dental school where the Mac is the primary computer and you favor Apple devices, your intuition about computer technology will be confirmed.

Mac@IBM Confirms Macs Save Money

Macs cost less than PCs, not more. Dental IT consultants with an expertise in Windows and Windows software developers have misled dentists to accept for years that Macs cost more than PCs. And while a Mac may cost a little more than a PC to acquire, the total cost of ownership (price plus support and maintenance over four years minus residual value) is the true cost of a Mac or PC in business. IBM, one of the largest enterprise computer users in the world supporting more than 500,000, and the largest user of Macs supporting more than 100,000, set the record straight once and for all.

In October 2016, Fletcher Previn, the Vice President of Workplace-as-a-Service at IBM, reported to the JAMF National User Conference the statistical findings of the Mac@IBM team who over 17 months enabled and supported 90,000 IBMers who preferred Macs. IBM’s goal, set in 2015, is to change their IT culture of enforcing versus enabling. The change required IBM to “give users the device they want, manage those devices in a modern way, and drive self-sufficiency in the environment.”

Here are some statistics from the October presentation:

• IBM supports 90,000 Macs and adds approximately 5,000 more per month
• PCs are three times the cost to manage and drive two times the number of support calls
• Employee satisfaction is up
• IT costs are down
• Every Mac model IBM buys yields a significant net savings compared to similarly configured Windows models

Encryption, antivirus, security is macOS native. For each Mac introduced, there are reduced costs for hard-drive encryption (macOS native FileVault versus PGP); reduced costs for antivirus (macOS native XProtect versus third party software for Windows); as well as reduced costs for security (macOS native Gate Keeper and SIP).

Macs outlast PCs 2X or more. “Apple technology benefits a new dentist or a younger dentist because your initial investment in technology, where that be a number of iMacs or whatever it may be, hardware-wise, will last much longer. I opened my practice over seven years ago and the same computers I bought on day one are still in service. I haven’t had to replace them. I’ve had to add some on as we’ve expanded, but not having to reinvest in new computers every two or three or four years really helps the bottom line. At a time when your practice is only 3 years old, and now you’re having to look at buying a whole new set of computers, it is really challenging. Whereas if you invest in Apple, you know that investment is going to carry you through the startup years of your practicing and beyond.”

-Josh Austin, DDS, Fagd – San Antonio, Tx

Note: FileVault and Gatekeeper can easily be turned on by your practice’s administrator, which is typically the dentist or practice owner, or the employee, who is the practice’s HIPAA compliance officer, in macOS system preferences. XProtect works in the background in macOS and virus definitions are automatically updated by Apple.

Support for Macs is less needed, less costly and more effective. Previn observed, “Fewer support problems yields better quality support.” IBM has reduced helpdesk staff for Macs contributing to a reduction in costs, yet there is 91-percent Mac user satisfaction with help versus 83 percent PC user satisfaction. “Five percent of Mac callers ever require a tech to come to their desk to support and help versus 27 percent of PC users,” Previn said.

There is higher satisfaction from support for Macs versus PC, even though the group is so small (50) because when the call is received the help needed is provided, unlike the PC support where users are commonly passed from tier 1 to tier 2 and possibly further before their issue is resolved. “There are just fewer problems” and “you get your problem fixed,” Previn said of Mac support. “fewer… problems yields better quality support… there are…fewer (Mac) problems”

As we have seen, 20 percent of IBM employees use Macs, but they account for only 5 percent of the support calls. PC users account for two times the support calls versus Mac users. Five percent of the Mac users call the helpdesk whereas 40 percent of PC users call, said Previn.

Note: IBM allocates just 50 helpdesk staff to 90,000 users for a ratio of 1:4500. Gartner’s statistics show the optimal number of IT (non Mac) to employees is 1:70 and the average is 1:242. What a difference a Mac makes!

Macs increase productivity versus PC. Besides quantifiable savings, IBM sees productivity gains due to workstation performance, backup/restores and other factors.

Note: An employee at IBM, like an employee at your office, that spends less time on the phone with support or being interrupted by in-person IT support and is more self-sufficient is more productive as well. How much is this gain in productivity of Mac versus PC worth?

The availability of Macs helps IBM hire and retain ‘top talent’. Keeping operating systems current, especially for security, 104 fewer times for macOS. There were 135 major critical patches of Windows 7 in 2015 versus 31 on Mac; 49 non security patches on Windows versus 20 on Mac; 86 critical security patches on Windows versus 11 on Mac, “which really means we have to go out and manage the Mac environment 104 fewer times per year. Well-run networks make the job of an attacker a lot more difficult,” said Previn.

135 major critical patches of Windows 7 v. 31 on Mac; 104 fewer (updates) for macOS

On the day of the presentation, 33 percent of Mac users had updated to macOS Sierra within 72 hours of release, 47 percent were on El Capitan, released one year before and 20 percent were on Yosemite, released two years before. One percent of Android users were on the 7.x, release in August and 20 percent were on 4.x, released in 2011. Conversely 65 percent of IBMers were on iOS 10 which was released 28 days before.

From the software side, every PC costs three times the cost of a Mac. “Our total cost to upgrade (users) from Windows XP to Windows 7, for example, it ended up that it would have just been cheaper to buy everybody new laptops,” said Previn.
Note: Keeping software current with security holes plugged is essential at IBM as it must be in your practice. Dentists using Macs never retain onsite IT to install Apple patches, and most update to a new macOS themselves.

“Every IBM Mac user is a local administrator (of their Mac) and Mac is approved for privileged users at IBM,” said Previn.
Previn noted that Apple malware is more expensive on the black market: $100 thousand vs. $1.5 million, which explains why iOS devices do not have the problems Android does.

“Another thing that Apple computers can help new dentists with is helping to start up and energize their brand to set themselves apart from other dentists in the area. There’s definitely sort of a je ne sais quoi about a patient walking in and seeing Apple products everywhere and the initial assumption that, oh I’m in a really technologically up-to-date place. I think the sort of boost of your brand is another important aspect to think of when you’re thinking of choosing Apple computers for your practice.”
Josh Austin, DDS, Fagd – San Antonio, TX

Mac hardware is more satisfactory. Employees with Macs seem to be more satisfied with their display, keyboard and mouse, therefore they require the purchase and support of fewer third party peripherals.

73 percent of IBMers prefer Macs, and that’s increasing. “The Mac users (surveyed) are a lot more satisfied than the PC users”, Previn reported. In December 2015, 65 percent of all employees stated that given a choice, they prefer that their next computer be a Mac. In May 2016, 73 percent stated that given a choice, they prefer that their next computer be a Mac.

64 percent of Windows users would consider switching to Mac in light of Windows 10 privacy issues: Comparitec report
Every Mac purchase makes money and saves money. IBM sees $535 in readily measurable savings per Mac over four years. During his presentations Previn stated, “The incremental purchase price of a Mac pays for itself several times over the life of the device in reduced support burden … the longer this program runs, the more compelling the business case becomes … I can confidently say every Mac we buy is making and saving IBM money.”

$535 measurable savings per Mac. “… every Mac we buy is making and saving IBM money.” In conclusion, Previn announced, “IBM Japan has now made the decision that Macs are the standard choice and PCs require an exception.”

There are so many reasons Macs and macOS native software can save money and improve your practice’s productivity and effectiveness. To see the full IBM presentation and to learn more visit

Mark Hollis is the cofounder and CEO of MacPractice, Inc. and provided practice management consulting services to 650 practices over 25 years. Mark represents MacPractice as member of HIMSS Electronic Health Records Association (EHRA), which advises the CMS, ONC and HHS, and as a contributing member of Commonwell, a non-profit created by top US EHR vendors to address the national challenge of patient identity related to EHR interoperability.