Apple In Cider
By John Rudkin (B. Ed Hons)
Apple Macs offer great value, especially for organisations that want to nurture creative skills that their teams are blessed with. But what if you have little experience of Apple computers? What about support? This article offers an insight into how to make the best of your Macs, from day one.
You cannot escape the fact that Apple has rebounded everywhere from what many doomsayers said would be a terminal end (although it was far from the truth) in 1997. How can anyone ignore the fact that, following PC Magazines 2005 and 2006 Readers' Choice surveys of some 13,000 users, Apple comes out with top billing for customer satisfaction?
All these things add up to a new and growing interest in what Apple computers can bring to organizations.
If you’ve used Apple technology (an iPod?) you may understand Apple’s reputation for well designed, secure, easy to use products. A Mac offers great value, especially for organizations that want to nurture creative skills that their teams are blessed with.
Cards on the table.
I used to work for Apple UK. These days I use one or more Windows PCs daily, and it is because I work in a Windows environment that I have gained a terrific insight into the pros and cons of both camps. No one should worry about accommodating both (indeed a modern Mac will run Windows), although I find the Mac experience much more ‘user friendly’ in many ways.
For now I’d like to consider how you ensure support for Apple Macintosh in a predominantly Windows based organisation when there is little of no Mac technical expertise at hand.
Firstly, if a Mac is in the hands of a Mac user, or a Mac user is the person wanting to use the Mac, you are guaranteed a certain level of certainty and success. Take a moment to learn why they use it - from them, and look at what they can actually do on that Mac. You might be bowled over at this point. You will find most Mac users are happy to be self-sufficient, a modern Mac being rather less intimidating to a none technical user than you’d think. ICT support can become a lot easier.
Secondly, if you have considered a Mac because you want to do some of those creative, fun things that its software accommodates seamlessly (in ways Windows user can dream about) you are half way to changing the way you look at computers in your organisation already. You may need some training, and be worried about ‘support’? Read on.
Thirdly, if you haven’t considered a Mac, well, you must be happy and contented. Just get ready to upgrade for the coming of Vista (Microsoft’s new operating system). It is common knowledge that Vista is more like the current Mac operating system than ever, but you will almost certainly not be able to run it on older computer hardware.
Support can be accessed in a number of ways. Consider these in your purchasing plans before the Mac arrives, and then go on to look at ongoing support.
Let us establish what you get when you purchase a Mac. Apple has a standard one-year limited warranty to cover your investment should anything go wrong. More importantly they also provide 90 days support covering not only the hardware, but also the Apple software that comes with the computer, and that is a lot of free software. Apple also covers any other additional Apple software on the same computer. Note that free support and advice is not commonplace with all vendors, but Apple provides a great service via a simple 0845 (low call) number. Registration is simple and very worthwhile. All relevant numbers and details are published at http://www.apple.com/uk/contact/. Your support for the first 90 days is well covered. I’ll look at training later.
I strongly advise purchasers consider "AppleCare". Even if you have a person who will support your Mac or Macs, AppleCare can provide unrivalled peace of mind, and at a very respectable price. This is not just an “extended warranty”; it is a full extension of that initial, fully supported, 90 days support. It is the equivalent of a support person on call 24 hours a day 365 days a year. For a complete system such as an iMac this costs just £139.00 – that is £43 a year. Bargain!
Do some homework. Pick up a couple of Mac magazines (there are several on the newsagents shelves, although they may not always be as prominent as some PC ones). Magazines are excellent sources of information, and often highlight things you may miss. These magazines are also a boon for users of older Macs as they often cover themes related to upgrading and maintenance.
The Internet has some very good advice, once you plough through the volume of words. Apple's website is a good place to start.
Talk to Mac enthusiasts. You may be harbouring a closet expert (but the chances are you will already know!).
If you are buying new, there are a number of options open to you, and you’ll need to weigh them up. All have support advantages of their own. The comments above, under support, apply to all (but be careful here. Some independent retailers may offer you extended warranties and support that can cost up to three times as much as AppleCare).
You might want to buy from the online "AppleStore"(or access it from Apple's website). Prices are typical, sometimes advantageous, and special offers are regularly sent out by email once you have registered with them. You will always receive the latest models.
Most people may see Macs most frequently in retail outlets, and those lucky enough may live near an Apple Retail Store (these are run by Apple UK) will be greeted with a complete Mac buying experience. The great thing about the Apple Retail Stores is that you can also book help sessions with them (and all for free), and they run regular seminars and drop-in training, and all for free. The London Regents Street Store is the biggest in the world!
If you have an Apple reseller close by, you also have the added advantage of creating a relationship with them, which can work very well. They are usually competitive on price and should work hard to ensure you get the best from the equipment. These days Apple awards a specialisation mark to its resellers who ‘add value’. They call these ‘Apple Solutions Experts’ (ASEs), and as the name suggests, they should be very capable of helping you get the best from your installation. You can find out more about ASEs, and where your nearest is located on the ASE section of the Apple website.
Remember that Apple products may only be part of your installation, and that you might need other products and services, such as networking, advice and training. In this case, your relationship with a reseller can be very valuable indeed.
If you have a Mac user or enthusiast on board, ask them what their advice would be. Listen and ask. They are enthusiastic for a reason and will have learned a thing or two along the way. You could also invest in a Mac magazine or two from the newsagents shelf and get to know the recommendations. It is far better to be prepared – and even if the magazine doesn’t mean a lot yet, apart from buying advice - it will!
Training and Maintaining
You can find some companies that offer Mac based training listed in the Mac Magazines, and your local ASE or reseller is almost certainly going to be able to advise. As mentioned earlier, Apple Retail Stores actually run sessions daily, and for free.
Some Colleges run training courses independently, but recently Apple has been establishing Regional Training Centres (RTCs) up and down the UK. Although set up to cater for the rapidly growing demand for teacher training, these centres run courses focused on the creative use of Apple specific software.
Of potential interest to anyone thinking of using computers creatively in the Voluntary, Community and Faith Sectors, the European Computer Driving License Creative ICT qualification has been announced. For more details contact Aston Swan.
There are a number of Mac based user groups across the UK. You may have one close by. You will always find enthusiastic people, and they can be a valuable source of good, independent advice.
Apple has its own help and support mechanisms in place worldwide (outside of what has already been highlighted). Apple’s support site, is a good first port of call.
Published: 17th January 2007 Reviewed: 23rd April 2010
Copyright © 2007 John Rudkin (B. Ed Hons)