This has been a question I’ve noodled around for quite some time and it resurfaced as I was reading a ZDNET article by Zack Whittaker titled “Apple Overtakes Dell, HP as student laptop choice”.  Being in the IT field for as long as I have, I know the Apple vs. PC topic is a highly contentious one with both sides having very strong opinions and outlooks on the subject.  I don’t want to chime in on either side.  I’m really just curious about what are some of the possible changes in the corporate IT landscape as the 21st Century unfolds.

One thing I can say from my observations of Millennials:  they do appear to prefer Macs over PCs.  All the Millennials in my office had Macs as their personal laptops.  Some of them constantly badgered me about why we didn’t allow them at work.  I’m sure many IT leaders may be facing the same question from their young workforce today.  I really never had a very good answer for them except to say that PCs were the defacto standard in the company and as such, everyone had to conform to the standard.  It was a lame answer and the Millennials knew it.  At the time, I could get away with it because Millennials didn’t comprise a large portion of my team or of the workplace.

But will that lame answer work in the future, in the next 5 years or so when Millennials begin to represent a larger, more cohesive portion of the workforce?  We’ve talked about how the consumerization of IT is a huge issue for IT leaders and their staff.  This is another example of it. As students begin to prefer and embrace Macs over PCs,  this will spill over into the workplace.  Initially, Millennials may conform to the de facto standards imposed by organizations but will they do so forever? Remember, unlike other generations of users, the Millennials are not intimidated by or challenged by technology. They may take it upon themselves to test the de facto standard and push for change.  Will you be ready for that? 

I have two lovely twin goddaughers who started college last year.  My graduation present to both of them was to give them a laptop to take to college with them.  I gave them the choice of what laptop they wanted to get.  Their choice:  the MacBook Pro.  When I asked them why they chose the Mac, they simply said it was easier to use.  That comment piqued my interest and I started to observe Millennials when I was out and about.  I wanted to see if my goddaughters’ decision was unique to them or more pervasive within their group.   My first observation was that most of their friends also had Macs.  I took it a step further.  I am on the Board of Advisors at a local university’s Masters IT program.  At our last meeting, I arrived a few hours early and spent time in the cafeteria and other hangouts.  I counted the number of Macs and PCs I saw.  In my very informal and non-statistically based observation, I did find that the Millennials in my field of observation did carry more Macs than PCs.

My informal survey does somewhat validate the premise of the ZDNet article but more importantly, it may be pointing to a trend that will be unfolding in corporate America in years to come.    Spotting trends is not always easy but once I think I see one unfolding, I always like to research it and test it out to see if it has any teeth.  If it does,  I now have the ability to get ready for it instead of having it hit me like a 2×4 in the future.

What about you?  How aware are you of your surroundings?  Try doing your own Mac vs. PC Millennial survey and see what you come up with.  You can start with your own college kids and their friends.   As the saying goes  ” Forewarned is Forearmed”.   Today’s students will be your employees tomorrow.  The more you know about them, their preferences and tastes, the better you’ll be.  Let me know what you find out.