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In a standard corporate environment with PCs they are replaced approximately every 36 months on a revolving schedule.

In introducing Macs into the corporation, the IT department appears to be unable or unwilling to make a schedule for standard replacement, and thus the Mac users are getting upgraded ram and such, but their machines are older than the PCs.

What information should we be taking to the IT department to convince them to create such a schedule? Should we expect the schedule to be longer than typical PC replacement schedules, or the same? What aspects of a Mac make this a different equation than a PC?

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Here is the official list of Apple Vintage and Obsolete Products: support.apple.com/kb/HT1752?viewlocale=en_US&locale=en_US –  Wheat Williams Mar 28 '12 at 17:02
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Generally speaking, Apple supplies security fixes only for the current major OS X release (10.x) and the preceding one. So if security is of utmost importance to you, then a good rule of thumb is to replace the machine when the most recent version of OS X it can run is two major versions behind.

Today, that would be a machine that maxed out at 10.6, since 10.8 is the current version.

However, starting with 10.7, Apple has started to release major new versions every year, so they may begin extending security updates further back, otherwise you'd be out of luck after only two years. But there have only been two releases since then (10.7 and 10.8), so it hasn't been long enough yet to determine what they'll do when they get to 10.9 next year and 11.0 (or 10.10?) the year after.

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This is purely a business process and budgeting issue since CPU don't slow down and you need to have backup computers for business-critical machines whether they are one day old or one decade old (less you suffer the consequences of failure or mistake by an operator).

When the cost of maintaining an asset exceeds the cost to hire new tools to do their job, you make a business decision to get new tools.

Whether or not a Mac has gone vintage in Apple's eyes yet or not (typically this happens 5 years after a product is withdrawn from sale) you can still arrange for service and support from Apple or other parties so a business has far more flexibility than most consumers with respect to keeping old tech running.

It also seems like you are looking at the problem from the wrong perspective. Unless you have the accounting team's scoop on whether you want to carry a capital expense or leased expense, the buy/lease/rent calculation has more effect on buying than what you guess a suitable lifespan of the tool will be. The amortization taken and the situation of the tax burden of the entity will color any capital expense decision far more than whether you are planning on a 18 month renewal cycle or a 180 month renewal cycle. Take a look at how many Windows XP machines still exist in the workplace and you'll see that there is no hard and fast rule on when to expire technology, Mac or otherwise.

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In a typical corporate scenario you have to balance cost, resale value, and depreciation. This is all the accounting department really cares about, and that's who the IT department reports to. In general terms:

  • Macs are more expensive than the equivalent PCs. In other words if you need to do X, Y, and Z and it can be done on either platform, the cost of the minimum machine that will do it is less for PC than Mac.
  • Macs have a high resale value. After 2 years a PC will have dropped to a very low cost, but a similar Mac will still hold significant value.
  • Macs depreciate slowly, while accounting typically uses one depreciation value for all computer equipment.

The combination of high resale value, but the same depreciation may tip the scales in your favor - or at least temper the initial cost of the machine. The machine may be partially or fully depreciated when it's sold, but it will sell for a higher cost than the PCs they would sell at the same time.

In most scenarios anything shorter than a 2 year replacement plan is going to cost the company more money than the value they'll get out of the machine, but anything longer than a 3 year plan will cost the company in terms of performance (employee waiting for the machine to catch up) than they'll lose buying a new machine and selling the old one.

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And in a previous company I worked for, they replaced the head of IT with an accounting professional, and axed half the IT department. This is a company with 50k employees, and thousands of IT assets. The cost is of the utmost concern to most heads, and if you can convince them that the employees are less productive on an old machine than a new machine, and measure that productivity in dollars, then you will have a stronger case than "we should follow the industry standard." –  Adam Davis Dec 19 '12 at 17:27
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+1 for this fine answer; it's worth nothing though that for less resource-intensive activities (like standard web browsing / office work) you may be able to get more out of a Mac than 3 years. (Not terribly much more though) –  Pekka 웃 Dec 19 '12 at 17:32
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@Pekka "Hi, I'm a PC!" "And I'm a Mac!" together: "And since all you do is facebook and watch cat videos, we're virtually identical!" –  Adam Davis Dec 19 '12 at 17:40
    
lol, I thought about exactly that :) –  Pekka 웃 Dec 19 '12 at 17:41
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Don't know anything about the corporate scenario, but my inlaws are just now talking about replacing their 2005 iMac (and only because they can't get the latest version of Turbo Tax for it). I still use my 2003 eMac for a variety of purposes. –  Daniel Lawson Dec 19 '12 at 21:25
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It's probably a matter of debate how 'end of life' is defined; as one comment says, one reasonable definition is that it's at end of life when it no longer does what you want it to.

That said, another reasonable definition would seem to be whether the hardware in unsupported by the latest version of Mac OS. Here's the list of Macs which are supported by OS X. So if your MacBook Pro isn't on that list, you might be able to use that as justification to argue that it needs replacing!

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