David RD Gratton

Risks as my office goes Mac

August 28, 2007

In 1998 I was living in Singapore working for a bank trading exotic foreign currency options. At the time I was using a Macintosh at home running Office 98. Our trading model at the time was Excel based, so I actually caused quite a stir when I order Office for the Mac. I had to run hundreds of simulations on our Excel program running on my Mac before it was approved. Trust me when I tell you that it was an enormous headache to get that approval.

After we had a couple of virus scares at the bank, I realized that my Macintosh might "save the day" if we were victims of a successful virus taking down our systems. I wrote a memo to my boss and to the IT department informing them of the high risk that we were taking relying on only one OS. We were professional risk managers but we were not "seeing" the risk to our systems. Needless to say my memo got pretty much ignored.

When I started my Web company in 1999, I was pleased with the mix of Windows, Mac, and Linux computers in our office. Everyone had their favourite and we would rage after work in Quake III battle after Quake III battle to settle the score. The general break down was: designers were Mac, business admin was PC, and Programmers were Linux.

However, something has happened in the last 24 months in my office. We are 75% Macintosh. Programmers and business admins are switching to Macs as we hire new staff and purchase new equipment. Today I asked Mandy to start pushing people toward PCs and Windows in the office much to the surprise of some of my staff and especially anyone who knows how hard I fought for my Mac while working at the bank.

The issue is entirely about risk management. We need to ensure that we are not dependent on any one operating system, plus we need to actively keep in mind that Windows is still the dominant OS. If everyone has a Macintosh at our office it is easy to slip into the sense that Macs are the dominant boxes.

How weird to start asking the team, "Was that tested on IE?" rather than "have you tested it on Safari?"

UPDATE: September 14, 2007

Jay Savage as always has an insightful response to this post. Though I do think he has my opinion slightly out of context. I will make a reply in his comments.


Your may just as well become 100% Mac. Intel Macs can run both Windows and Mac OSs. The brilliance of programs such as Apple's Boot Camp and the wonderful virtualization offerings out there now do not limit your choice in equipment (or for that matter the choice to spend most of your day in the Mac OS.)

I hear what you are sayign about Macs but...

HI Chris,

I hear what you are saying about Mac hardware being able to run "both" Windows and Mac OS X. However, are you sure virtualization provides the necessary biodiversity that I am describing? Wouldn't the common hypervisor be the same risk as a common OS?

Not virtualization

With Boot Camp, you can run Windows natively on an Intel Mac. I'm not certain if that applies to Linux, however.