The old adage "nothing succeeds like success" is apparently holding for Apple Computer at universities these days.
With markedly neutral language, Yale University last week sent out a brochure to approximately 1,400 incoming freshmen outlining their options for technology purchases. Back on the list: Apple and its new $1,299 iMac, in part because of the company's financial turnaround act this year.
"The new brochure reflects changes in the market and changes in availability of [Mac] hardware and software," said a Yale spokesperson. With Apple's current outlook "very strong," the Ivy League school is supporting the presence of Macs at the university "for the foreseeable future," the spokesperson noted.
In June of 1997, the school's Information and Technology Services department drew up a statement that "strongly encouraged" incoming freshmen to select a Windows-based PC because there was a question about software availability for the Mac--a question highlighted by Apple's dismal financial condition at the time.
Yale IT department officials also said the university couldn't guarantee support for Macintoshes beyond June 2000, sparking a huge outcry from Mac users on campus. That recommendation was revised in December 1997 to a more reserved statement that deleted any specific platform recommendations.
But recently, Yale began offering students the ability to buy discounted Mac systems directly from Apple via a special Web site. (Education customers will also be able to purchase IBM and HP systems over the Internet, Yale officials said.)
Now Yale seems to have completely reversed course, paralleling Apple's fortunes--three straight quarters of profitability following over $1 billion in losses in 1997.
"Now as Apple turns around, so has Yale. That's all we hoped for," said William Sacco, director of the Yale Mac User Group and staff photographer at the university. Not only did the recommendations of the IT department irk students at Yale, but a number of faculty members who used Macs were also irritated with the advocacy of Windows PCs. Sacco and a number of faculty members worked together to change the policy.
The new set of recommendations is "extremely platform neutral, and this is what we said it should be," said a pleased Sacco.
Yale's turnabout follows even stronger support from another Ivy League school for the iMac. Approximately 1,110 students received a letter from Dartmouth recommending that they buy the iMac, which features a built-in networking capabilities, a must have at many college dorms these days. At Dartmouth, a computer is an entrance requirement.
While the wins are certainly significant ones for Apple, the company is still fighting the larger trend toward Microsoft and Intel technology. Universities have been increasingly turning to vendors other than Apple for their high-technology needs, in part due to their financial clout.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill last week recommended that its students purchase their computers from IBM, once the school's mandatory laptop policy goes into effect in 2000. The school also estimates it could buy some $16 million worth of computers from IBM over the next four years, thanks to a deal the university said will save them about $500 per computer over deals offered by other vendors. In a separate action, UNC is being offered approximately $2.5 million in grants by IBM for computer equipment and research.
Results in the education market are looking up for Apple, though. During the most recently completed quarter, Apple said it posted a 39 percent increase in unit sales, and expects another surge in the next quarter as it readies the launch of the iMac on August 15. Education sales contributed about 20 percent of Apple's revenue in a quarter in which it posted a $101 million profit, officials have said.