On April 1, 2006, Apple Computer celebrated its 30th birthday. Some may consider it an April’s fool joke to suggest seriously considering Apple’s computing platform, the Macintosh, as a legitimate accounting tool. However, perhaps a better thought would be to extrapolate from that popular saying of the 60's: now that Apple has reached 30, maybe it’s become a company that serious grown-ups can trust.
Accounting is serious business. As such, there are several key factors that must contribute to the decision of which computing environment (hardware, software, operating system) to entrust vital and sensitive financial data to.
The first factor is security. In today’s world, stories about thefts of massive databases containing personal and financial information regularly make headlines. This is only a part of the data security story, however. Though it no longer garners much attention, “age-old” (in terms of the time-accelerated computer industry,) problems, such as hard drive failures, network drive backup failures and even data compromised internally on an individual workstation, still exist. The Macintosh incorporates a number of technologies to mitigate against these potential downfalls. FileVault encrypts users’ data such that it cannot be accessed by another person even if the computer is stolen. Backup provides a facility to make automated backups of data to a number of sources, including Apple’s secure servers. And, of course, while not immune to them, to date, Macintoshes have been practically unaffected by the viruses, worms, and online intrusions that have plagued Windows users for years.
The second factor is reliable accounting software. Unbeknownst to many, the first spreadsheet, VisiCalc, was released in 1979 on the Apple II. Since then, accounting software has had a checkered history on Apple computers. However, over the last few years, accounting software has had a strong presence in the Macintosh market. The two primary professional packages, Account Edge 2006 and QuickBooks Pro 2006, are well regarded and positively reviewed.
Finally, there is the issue of compatibility. No user exists in a vacuum. Files often need to be shared between users, potentially running different software on a different platform. Files in the applications mentioned above are compatible between Windows and Macintosh versions of the applications. Also, no user strictly runs accounting software and nothing else on their computer. Users have a wide range of software that they need to run. The Macintosh currently offers a mixed bag in regards to this issue.
Older Macintosh computers offered compatibility with Windows applications through emulation software such as Microsoft’s own Virtual PC. On recent hardware, this solution runs Windows software reasonably well for all but the most processor-intensive applications. However, with Apple’s ongoing switch to Intel-based Macintoshes, the future of emulation software is in question.
This week, Apple offered another potentially viable option. As of April 5, Apple is supporting the ability to boot Windows XP on Intel-based Macintoshes. It remains to be seen whether or not users will ever be able to rapidly switch between both Windows and Macintosh operating systems running simultaneously on the same computer. In the meantime, though, at least users have the ability to run Windows software when they need to.
There are any number of reasons to choose one platform over another based on individual computing needs. Where accounting is concerned, the Macintosh can at least be considered a viable option.
Written by Eric Crichlow, freelance contributor and Mac user.