Apple Computer’s chief financial officer, Peter Oppenheimer, announced last week that the company’s higher education division just had its best ever back-to-school quarter, and Harvard is part of the trend.
According to Daniel D. Moriarty, the University’s chief information officer (CIO), personal purchases of Macintosh computers at Harvard are up 30 percent from last year, while sales of IBM Lenovo machines have more or less flat-lined.
Moriarty added that Harvard is one of Apple’s largest educational re-sellers. He said that several years ago, Apple sales were lagging, but now campus demand for Macs has almost caught up to demand for non-Mac PCs.
Moriarty and Faculty of Arts and Sciences CIO Larry Levine offered multiple explanations for this new trend.
“Historically, Apple products have been perceived by a lot of consumers as being more expensive than a Wintel machine, and Apple has reduced prices recently,” Moriarty said. “I think that’s helped on the financial side.”
Levine said that before, consumers shied away from Macs because of a fear that they would not be compatible with many common applications, but now that perception has faded.
“The move Apple made to the Intel architecture, which allowed people to run Windows and Mac OS side by side, [allowed Macs] to effectively emulate Windows applications,” Moriarty said.
Both CIOs also mentioned that since Mac OS is based on the Unix operating system, having that functionality is also appealing to people who have a more scientific or technical bent.
But for some students on campus, Macs’ appeal is a little more aesthetic.
“They’re just pretty,” said new Apple-owner Barbara M. Sabat ’07. “Macs are sexy.”
Tod Hadley, a product sales employee of University Information Systems-Technology Services, said he thinks that Apple computers have partly become more popular because the computers are riding on the coattails of the popular iPod MP3 players.
“The ‘cool factor,’ you just can’t compare—iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD—that kind of thing comes free of charge with every Mac,” Hadley said.
A global facebook.com group called “Apple Students” boasts over 500,000 members and features images of the colorful iPods and other Mac accessories.
Moriarty did say, however, that the discount levels the University gets on IBM Lenovos are higher than on Apples, so a combination of cost, software compatibility, and support issues still impact computer purchases at Harvard.
“The distance between the discounts is still substantial,” Moriarty said.