IBM Offers Apple Macbooks to its Employees

58353707_fcaecce01eWhen I came to the U.S. back in 1999, I got some ribbing about the “green screen” technology I was working on from others who, like me, had envisioned coming to America to work on cool, modern technologies (such as Java, HTML, JavaScript, etc.). I had taken the opening I got, working on the IBM AS400, the iSeries technology.

While it is a green screen technology, it was and still is amazingly stable, steadfastly reliable. When I mentioned my work, people would say that is 70’s/80’s technology. They predicted its demise—but it hasn’t happened yet. I have been in meetings with vice presidents of IT who were looking for recommendations of to how optimally run their $5 billion plus worldwide supply chain business on these machines. They wanted to know the best strategy: a centralized architecture with mirroring or an iSeries box in every location, with a localized IT team in place.

I’ve also seen retailers who love the technology so much that they run $12 billion in business running on the boxes. Rule of thumb: if the CIO is over forty years old, he or she will lean toward the iSeries technology, while the under 40 CIO will lean toward open system technology.

My time working on IBM technology gave me great respect for the company. At the same time, I had moments when I felt like I was missing out on the information revolution going on around me. Then I saw a film called Pirates of Silicon Valley that shows how Steve Jobs and Bill Gates fought each other to dominate the PC market. I not only watched it, but also analyzed it, debated it, wondered if the future is going to change so fast, over and over again. (Pardon my slight digression, but  I didn’t know India had so much impact on these folks even in the early days in Silicon Valley, in a scene where Steve Jobs’s first wife calls to tell him that she is pregnant and Jobs suggests naming the new baby Ravishankar.)

I still remember the scene where Bill Gates sells IBM execs on the Operating System he hasn’t invented yet and then the Microsoft team hustles to get the DOS operating system from another guy, which they later license to IBM. From there, I learnt about how the Internet is going to change everything.

To this day, I retain my respect for IBM, and when the company takes a new direction, I pay attention. When I recently read that IBM is offering its employee Apple MacBooks, then, I was very interested.


CIOs need to take a special notice of this development and seriously consider deploying MacBooks in their Enterprises, including procurement and supply chain, for a number of reasons:

  1. The potential to keep employees at peak productivity and enhance employee experience.
  2. The ability to attract the best talent.
  3. The need to give the millennial work force familiar and favorite technology.
  4. The chance to position the organization as a forward-looking innovative company with the latest technology.
  5. The need to stay ahead of the competition.

However, this can’t be a wholesale move. In fact, there are at least a couple of areas where the MacBook isn’t the best choice. For example:

  1. CAD design. There are several sophisticated drawing software applications available for Windows, but the Mac versions are not the latest. Further, there are significant differences in the renderings done in Windows versus renderings in Mac.
  2. Running legacy apps. There are several legacy applications that are still only Windows compatible. Until they are Mac compatible, they’ll have to remain on Windows.

With the Windows 8 fiasco, the timing for MacBook to make a splash in the Enterprises seems right. However, Apple does need to work out some problems before there can be a smooth transition. For example, the Mac needs to support Microsoft Office smoothly. As it stands now, the Office version FOR Mac is old.  There may be some challenges when porting the documents created in Mac into different versions of Office—a reality that may or may not be a big hurdle.

Further, Apple has to focus on supporting all the enterprise apps that run Internet Explorer today. A lot of enterprises are running applications exclusively developed for Internet Explorer, and Microsoft stopped making IE for Mac in 1996. There is no browser that can replace IE in Mac (or iOS) seamlessly, but there are a few third party browsers that can be configured to mimic Chrome or IE or Safari. Unfortunately, they don’t have all the features that IE has (especially ActiveX). That means that users not running IE can’t access web sites that use ActiveX. It also means, though, that they aren’t as prone to the security issues that, over time, make Windows PCs sluggish.

Taking all this into consideration, it’s important that organizations step back and take a look at altering their technology course as IBM did. The deployment of Macbook in enterprises not only brings maintenance headaches but will also put pressure on the industry to address some of the limitations I listed above.

Apple might not let this happen, since they have a long history of creating a closed eco system and is not a big fan of encouraging 3rd party apps like these. Or perhaps under Tim Cook’s leadership, things may be different. Potentially, there is this opportunity opening up for software vendors to make the windows compatible apps for Macbook and iOS, while this transition to Macbook is happening. It remains to be seen.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on how this might develop in your enterprise. Please post your comments below.

Puga Sankara
Puga Sankara is the co-founder of Smart Gladiator LLC. Smart Gladiator designs, builds, and delivers market-leading mobile technology for retailers, distributors, and 3PL service providers. So far, Smart Gladiator Wearables have been used to ship, receive, and scan more than 50 million boxes. Users love them for the lightweight, easy-to-use soft overlay keyboard and video chatting ability, data collection ability etc. Puga is a supply chain technology professional with more than 17 years of experience in deploying capabilities in the logistics and supply chain domain. His prior roles involved managing complicated mission-critical programs driving revenue numbers, rolling out a multitude of capabilities involving more than a dozen systems, and managing a team of 30 to 50 personnel across multiple disciplines and departments in large corporations such as Hewlett Packard. He has deployed WMS for more than 30 distribution centers in his role as a senior manager with Manhattan Associates. He has also performed process analysis walk-throughs for more than 50 distribution centers for WMS process design and performance analysis review, optimizing processes for better productivity and visibility through the supply chain. Size of these DCs varied from 150,000 to 1.2 million SQFT. Puga Sankara has an MBA from Georgia Tech. He can be reached at or visit the company at Also follow him at
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