When I started my career in IT more moons ago than I care to remember I worked in a steel fabrication yard many miles from my parents’ house.

I would get a lift four days a week with a lovely bloke who worked in the estimation department. He was a bright and convivial travel partner, with one minor exception. He was one of those religious fundamentalists who saw it as their duty to convert every single person they come into contact with. He only tried twice with me, pretty much identifying a lost cause rapidly; but we did have interesting religious conversations.

This old memory came back to me last week when I was in conversation with one of the group FDs about IT costs. As a media group we have a number of Apple Macs dotting around, some divisions have more than others but for both IT and Finance the Macs are a major issue. Both the hardware and the software for the Macs are expensive to purchase and support. Compared to the price of a comparable PC the Macs can be three or four times more expensive. The software is also horrendously expensive. They cannot truly be supported by the standard support teams but need a specialist team of Mac support guys. Who are obviously more expensive than the standard teams and in turn need specialist support.

Then there are the standard business applications such as email and calendaring. While there is some support for Exchange etc on Macs, it’s not brilliant, and very expensive in terms of memory and processor power. To be fair here, the latest version of Entourage finally provides most of this capability, but this is relatively new.

So why do we tolerate these expensive and unsupportable white elephants in a large corporate network? Years ago it was obvious; Macs could render colour in ways PCs, even workstation units could not. They could handle high end, detailed and exacting graphical work to a level that PCs just could not. Back in '97 I tried a challenge to replace Macs with PCs and barely made it out of the office with my arms and eyeballs intact.

But is that still the case? Are Macs, now with Intel processors, still that much more powerful with regards to graphics and design? I may have been wrong in '97, but I do not believe there is a difference any more.

For Mac enthusiasts, in a corporate environment, the lack of superiority in its designated environment is not relevant. Now it’s a lifestyle choice, a choice based on “it’s not a PC, it’s not Microsoft”. It’s a religion. You could prove to a Mac “creative” that the PC is cheaper, is as good at its job, even better at its job. That no longer is the point. It’s about faith, about an understanding that somehow, the Mac is “just better”.

There is also another reason for the “creative” to retain his religion of the Mac. Snobbery. I may be able to see that the PC is as good as the Mac, but in doing so I am proving I am a techie, not a “creative”. I do not “see” the difference. And in doing so they are proving their superiority, in the same way that priests retain theirs.