The Privy Council Office needs some new computers — and they want to buy Apple, not Windows

Fun piece by David Akin on PCO’s purchase of Apple. As a long-time Mac user, was frustrated by the corporate IT folks who were overly slavish with respect to Windows and Blackberry.

But Macs have generally always had a place in the Comms shop for videos and other creative work:

Between federal government civilian employees and the RCMP and Canadian Forces uniformed members, there must be close to 500,000 people.  Almost all of those folks would need a desktop computer. Many would need a laptop computer. And many would need a government-issued smartphone.

All those devices — not to mention the servers that store government data and software — present one heckuva a challenge from an information technology management point-of-view. The federal government’s I.T. chief has to worry about security, about cost, interoperability, and ease of administration when it comes to training and software updates. For those reasons, the government has for years standardized on computers that run Microsoft’s Windows operating system which means, almost by default, a standard deployment of Microsoft’s Office suite — Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access.

The standard smartphone deployed to government employees has, for years, been a BlackBerry.

But things are changing.

Example: Last night, the government posted a tender for a supplier to fix up bureaucrats who work in the Privy Council Office with 52 computers — from Apple!

Now, maybe the PCO was working on Macs before this tender offer went out. I’ve asked the department if that’s the case and we will update here. I am told, in fact, by a PCO spokesperson that it is not unusual for departments to have a small number of Apple computer in use “for specialized requirements.”


…The PCO is the federal government department that supports the work of the prime minister. It is the civil service mirror/partner, if you will, of the PMO — the Prime Minister’s Office. Officials in both the PMO and PCO work closely together. In my personal experience, I have seen many PMO officials using Apple products. And I know via some documents I dug up using an access to information request that the prime minister himself had some Apple products purchased for his use at his home office at Rideau cottage. He bought (if memory serves) an iPad Pro, among other devices and information technology.

But Trudeau is not the only prime minister to have picked Apple. That’s right: Stephen Harper was an Apple guy. The one and only time I ever saw Harper use any piece of information technology, it was his own personal Apple MacBook, which he brought into the House of Commons one night during a long “take-note” debate. Interestingly, the Apple logo that is on the front of any MacBook had been covered on Harper’s device with a family photo.

And it was another Conservative politician — Stockwell Day — who was the first MP I ever saw to bring a tablet into the House of Commons and, you bet, that tablet was an iPad. Nowadays, if you look down upon the House of Commons, you will see a sea of iPads.

But I can tell you House of Commons I.T. had to be dragged kicking and screaming to agree to have iPads on the House network or to agree to support iPads.

And so it may be with the broader government-wide I.T. community, already dealing right now with a very rough transition to some common platforms and computing environments via Shared Services Canada. (And we won’t even talk about the fiasco that is the computerized Phoenix payroll system.)

But at the Privy Council Office — the command-and-control centre for the entire civil service — 50 Apple computers are on the way.

Why are they going Mac and getting off of Windows? Unknown at this point. Again: Questions are in to PCO and we’ll see what they say. But there might be a few reasons.

First, speaking as a guy who used the original Apple McIntosh to paginate my university paper back in the 80s, who used to be a technology reporter and who still has a working Apple G4 Cube at home, Macs are just, well, machines for the rest of us. (See that famous Apple ad, below, which introduced the world to the McIntosh).

But there is also some evidence that, even though a comparable Apple desktop is more expensive versus a comparable Windows box, the total cost of ownership — TCO in I.T.-speak — is actually lower once you factor in how much it costs to provide tech support to users of device and other issues.  Heck, even IBM now buys Macs and encourages its clients to do so because of lower costs. (IBM, incidentally, was widely believed to have been the firm that was mocked in that original 1984 Apple ad.)

Source: The Privy Council Office needs some new computers — and they want to buy Apple, not Windows | National Post


About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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