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2002 AEC CAD IT Study Indicates Macintosh Advantages for IT Management Costs for AEC Firms Worldwide

CAMBRIDGE,  MASS. — June 4, 2003 —, a leading CAD portal specializing in IT information resources, end-user support, editorial products, and industry analysis for Macintosh-based CAD/3D and AEC users worldwide, has announced key summary findings of its 2002 AEC CAD IT Survey Report. Chief among these findings were that Macintosh-only AEC firms spend 15 – 50 percent less on IT management support costs than Windows or mixed platform firms.

The Report

The 2002 AEC CAD IT Survey Report uses voluntary survey data from 71 AEC (architecture/engineering/construction) firms, primarily in the United States, collected by during the latter half of 2002. The survey itself asked approximately a dozen detailed questions across an array of key AEC IT categories including: CAD software, OS platform, database systems, accounting and backup systems, servers, and IT management and support staff. Designed to obtain generalized data, the survey marks the site’s first attempts to collect, analyze and publish quantitative data in order to serve its business and institutional readers with information that enables them to gain a deeper understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of utilizing the Macintosh platform in AEC.

“Our professional and educational readers have been asking for quantitative studies that illustrate and clarify Macintosh IT management advantages and disadvantages for years,” says site founder and editor, Anthony Frausto. “We were very happy to deliver this information product for them earlier this year and plan on producing more in-depth studies in the near future.”

Key Findings

There were five key findings in the report: 1) Mac firms spend on average 12 percent more on hardware costs than Windows or Mac/Windows mixed platform firms, 2) Mac firms have workstation replacement cycles of six (6) months longer than Windows firms, gaining a full year of additional productive use every two replacement (upgrade) cycles, 3) Cross-platform firms spend approximately the same amount on IT costs as Windows-only firms, 4) FileMaker Pro is the dominant database application used by AEC firms in the study, especially in cross-platform firms, 5) Macintosh-only firms spent 15 to 50 percent less on IT management costs (including staff type, staff hours, etc.) than both Windows-only firms and mixed platform firms.

“We were somewhat surprised by the findings,” says Anthony Frausto, “especially the 12 percent greater cost Mac users spend on comparable hardware.” “However, we were absolutely blown away with the IT management costs by Windows firms. Windows firms are clearly spending more money on IT staff related costs than their Mac counterparts.”

Stephane Laroye, IT Manager at Hotson Bakker Architects, of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, a medium sized firm, said “this does not surprise me at all. The Mac is an intuitive environment so each user is able to comfortably figure things out on their own.” He adds, “I can also comment on the fact that with Mac OS X, my IT time has been reduced considerably since we deployed our Xserve. With one disk image, I can configure all desktop machines the same while each staff person’s Home folder is located on the Xserve. If there are any problems with one desktop, they can move to another and login into their own account giving the office far more flexibility (remember the mainframe days?).”

Even Windows firm participants commented on Apple’s Macs being easier to maintain and support. But for many of them its not enough to just run cheaper and easier. Bruno Grinwis IIDA, Director of Corporate Interiors at BBGM Architects and Interiors, a firm with over 150 people in both Washington DC and New York City, stated cost is a big issue, but it is not the only issue. He states: “Well, we should use Macs (as I do at home). It is simply because Autocad drove the computer purchase and IT people to PC’s so the Mac was never on their list of possibilities.” In a follow up interview Bruno was asked if the Mac’s initial higher hardware costs would factor into the firm’s platform decisions. He answered:


No, I’d say if Autocad comes out on Mac, the issue will be the use of Macs on a Windows network, mostly because they do not know how Macs can be integrated into this kind of environment. It is all about seeing and trying things out.

Bruno Grinwis


While the key relevant finding was that both Mac and Windows participants in the study acknowledged the Macintosh platform’s ease of use and management cost savings, some Windows participants were more critical of Apple’s progress in performance computing. Attila Eris, an architect with the internationally famous Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW) of Paris, with offices in Genoa, Italy, and a combined staff of 100 people, said Macs accounted for about 3 percent of their computers at the moment, despite the fact that the office used to be almost entirely Macintosh several years ago and that many architects still use Macs at home.

According to Attila, Macintosh use in France (Paris in particular) is approximately limited to 10 – 15 percent of architecture firms, down from the days when most architects used Macs. He blames Autocad for the Mac’s disappearance. “When Autocad for the Mac disappeared the whole office had to change to Windows-based computers. As the architects were still against Microsoft they were at least running the servers with Linux.”

He estimates that Mac firms today in France are mostly using ArchiCAD and VectorWorks and that ArchiCAD firms are becoming increasingly mixed platforms (increasing PC’s) as the Mac’s performance has dropped in relation to Intel machines. “Apple needs faster machines than PCs offer”, says Attila Eris, “That’s the only way. Not too expensive either.”


Actually, I would say that Autocad on OS X would at least stop preventing people from buying a Macintosh. But from here to make people dump their PC for a new Mac they need a real “killer” application.

Attila Eris


While Attila Eris is — like many who follow the platform battle — aware of the shifting performance crown between Intel and Apple (and the fact that more powerful Apple machines are coming in the future) he states that there is more to it than that.

Closing Comments and Report Availability

The report has detailed data on 71 firms (mostly architectural), including data from some of the most highly regarded, internationally famous architectural firms in the world, like the Renzo Piano Building Workshop. The opinions and comments expressed in this press release are examples of the detailed commentary information to be found in the full 2002 AEC CAD IT Survey Report and Companion Website by Architosh. The report has been available for a few weeks and can be purchased for $50.00US for non Architosh members and $25.00US for Architosh members. Further information and European pricing can be found here.

Major OEM and ISV customers for the Architosh 2002 AEC CAD IT Survey Report have included Apple Computer Inc., Oce Inc., Nemetschek North America Inc., A&A Co. Ltd. of Japan, and other educational and professional users worldwide. To obtain your high-quality color, printed copy download the appropriate PDF order form on this web page.

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