From the July 2011 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

July 1, 2011

Could a Mac Be in Your Firm’s Future?

Take stock of your firm’s specific needs and goals to determine if you’re using the right platform

For a majority of advisors, personal computers and a Microsoft Windows-based environment is the technology backbone for their office. In fact, just several years ago you would have had to search high and low to find advisors who deployed Apple products in their office. Today, we see many advisors using iPhones, and now iPads are becoming more common, even though this device has been available for less than 18 months. Is it now time for you to think about purchasing Macs for your office as well? I certainly wouldn’t call this a cutting-edge technology decision, because there is a growing group of advisors using Macs, but nonetheless it is not a simple decision. As with most technology decisions, it primarily depends on the specific needs of your firm to determine if this is a good idea.

The first question that I would ask in regards to leveraging a Mac in your office is how flexible your firm is with using technology. Specifically, do you enjoy working with technology? Do you not mind little annoyances, things that don’t quite match up, occasional issues that you might have to deal with when using a Mac versus a Microsoft-based personal computer? What I mean here is that you should be prepared to encounter support providers (custodian, technology partners, software vendors, etc.) who may not have much experience supporting Macs. Therefore, although any issues using a Mac should still be resolved, it might take a little longer given the lack of experience and exposure compared with how often the provider addresses issues for Windows users. This is ultimately a numbers issue, which quickly translates into a cost issue. The continued growth of Mac usage by advisors should eventually make this a moot point, but we are not there yet, and if the cost of acquiring a Mac carries as big a premium in the future as it does today, it may be some time before we see parity.

Another important area to consider as part of your evaluation for purchasing a Mac is to fully review the technology that your firm utilizes today. If your firm primarily uses cloud-based products and solutions, then this is a much easier decision. The Internet browser that most Mac users choose, Safari, (others are available as well) essentially is your access point to these products. Thus the operating environment should not come into play as much with these cloud-based products and services. However, it is best to first check with the providers directly in regard to their ability to support a Mac environment. And don’t forget to ask the provider how many firms that they are already supporting in this environment—this will give you a good idea of their experience with the Mac.

If you have a number of locally installed software programs at your firm, then purchasing a Mac could potentially be much more complicated. However, on the surface this is not a show stopper. Considering the industry applications that have been built specifically for advisors, it is likely that these installed programs can only operate in a Microsoft Windows environment. The good news is that there are products available that allow you to operate Windows-based software in a Mac environment. One of the more popular solutions available is Fusion built by VMware (www.vmware.com). Fusion essentially lets you run Microsoft Windows and Windows-based products on your Mac. This type of technology is not necessarily new, but the overall speed, performance and experience has significantly improved over the years. Furthermore, it allows you to run your Microsoft Windows programs side by side with your Mac. In the past, you had to choose which operating system (Windows versus Mac) that you were going to use when you started your computer.

When considering purchasing a Mac for your business, what you need most of all is an open mind and a bit of patience.

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