Chris and Sarah Carmichael
Mac versus PC. It’s been a seemingly age-old tug of war that dates back to Apple’s entry into the computing marketplace in the late 1970s.
Back in the day, DOS and IBM platforms were already firmly entrenched in the business world by the time Apple and its Macintosh brand debuted. Apple quickly decided to market itself to more “creative” users, and that’s pretty much the way things have stayed. In Mammoth Lakes, PCs dominated, mostly due to business networks, not surprisingly, and Macs have remained the minority machine. Lately, however, they’ve been quickly gaining market share and the PC has had to make room for an increasing amount of Apple products and users in town, so much so that one local business decided to formally change its business model.
Carmichael Business Technologies (CBT), which had been exclusively a PC sales and repair house, recently made the move to become an official Apple service center. That’s right … no more sending Macs back to the factory, or taking them to Nevada or even further to Southern California. Chris and Sarah Carmichael, CBT’s owners, now service Apple products right here.
In business since 2004, Chris started out as a systems analyst for Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. “Things were changing at MMSA about that time,” Chris recalled about his downsizing. “Sarah and I had to figure out how we were going to stay here.” The couple decided to take a chance and tapped some condo equity to start CBT. “Basically I was desperate and broke,” Chris quipped. “Seriously, though, it was make it or break it.” Sarah quit her job at MMSA a few months later and came in to run CBT’s operations.
“We filled a niche,” Chris said. “Even while I was at MMSA, I was constantly getting calls for IT (information technology) help after hours. Which is no big deal for me; I used to do IT work for beer money when I was in college.”
At the time CBT opened its doors, Macs weren’t as common. “There was almost no demand for Mac services. We wouldn’t have turned it down if there had been a market,” he pointed out. Mac users, he thinks, can be found in three core groups: students, artists and at-home users, all of which he said can be found in Mammoth in greater numbers than ever before.
On a technical level, he also cited two specific events that caused a major user shift: Windows Vista “sucking SO badly,” and the skyrocketing popularity of the iPhone and its tablet-sized sibling, the iPad.
“We had clients switch to Mac because Vista was so bad,” Chris said. Another big factor in the decision was Eastern Sierra Unified School District’s basing itself on the Mac platform and ESUSD’s 1-to-1 MacBook “every teacher, every student” program. “We’re their primary IT supporter.”
The Carmichaels said their first goal is competency. “We know how to fix them,” Chris stated. “Computer guts are basically the same, but Apple’s configuration is proprietary. I’m an Apple-certified Mac tech, and I’ve got one tech apprenticing and another just one final test away from his cert.” Getting CBT’s service center wings from Apple took a while. The Carmichaels had to take photos of the shop, prove it was a clean environment, go through credit and business checks, and submit recommendations from clients. “We even had to describe why we need a service center here, but that wasn’t too hard, between the ESUSD, and the visitors, local photographers and other media-heads who live here,” Chris observed. “We had one minor glitch with a photo of the shop that they flagged because there was a Rockstar can on one of our tech’s desks. I had to tell them, ‘He’s an IT guy! He doesn’t sleep and Rockstars are how he doesn’t sleep!’”
Then came the waiting … four months. “I thought we’d been passed over, until one day we got an e-mail saying we were approved.”
The next goal is to become an official Apple reseller, which will give customers access to the latest products and special deals. That process is ongoing. “We can still order gear in the meantime; we just can’t get you the discounts and so on.”
Chris was quick to point out that while they have Mac service, in no way are they walking away from PCs. “That’s still our bread and butter. PCs are still the bulk of the market … for every Mac software package, there are about 75 for the PC. Macs are an additional service, an add-on, not a switchover.” The Carmichaels are going so far as to add extra staff to cover the new Mac demand, and have no intention of sending any of their PC clients to Nevada, though they do expect to grow their Apple client base. “The 20-teens are predicted to be the years that Mac makes a push into the business market, which could turn everything upside down,” he explained.
Call CBT for information on PC or Mac services at 760.934.4382.