Mac on the rise in accountancy

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Evidence is emerging that AccountingWEB members are breaking their traditional computing habits and migrating from Windows to Macs in increasing numbers.

Since the PC began to infiltrate the profession in the 1980s, it has had what seemed like an impregnable stranglehold as most specialist accounting and tax applications were only available for DOS or Windows. Microsoft Office - and particularly the accountants’ best friend, Excel - cemented that relationship.

But Apple’s phenomenal success with the iPhone and iPad has eroded that hold, as has the rise of Cloud computing, which only needs a web browser to ensure hardware compatibility.

As Nigel Harris has documented in his Mac diary since he opted for a MacBook in 2009, it meets his needs and is less trouble to run than a PC. If he did need to run Windows applications, he could do so using VMWare  or some other virtual machine system.

The increasing momentum behind the Mac came to light recently in our Paperless office debate on managing the tax workload. Three of the people who took part commented that they had gone paperless, using Macs.

For sole practitioner TaxTeddy, it was a simple matter of changing work patterns and buying a scanner to run alongside the practice iMac.

“There is nothing which cannot be stored as a PDF,” TaxTeddy argued. Working files are easily shared with associates by using DropBox, the tax reference library is entirely electronic and technical bits and pieces are stored as Firefox bookmarks or within Evernote.

“My diary and work schedule is kept electronically with BusyCal. As I backup using Apple's Time Machine and also into the Cloud with CrashPlan there is no chance of losing a file or document,” TaxTeddy added.

Larsswann is also now Mac-based and operates using a remote desktop connection hosted by Hosted Accountants. Andrea Scott is also Mac-based, but relies on VMWare to run her BTC and VT tax and accounting applications, and uses GoToMyPC to log in to the Mac remotely.

According to tax lawyer and gadget guru Anne Fairpo, the Mac/DropBox paperless approach is becoming a de facto standard for many starting up in practice, particularly if they also go down the iPhone/iPad route.

Having conquered software compatibility, the other advantage that users perceive with the Mac is the rarity of viruses and malware. But this is a myth. As one anonymous member warned way back in 2009, “The only reason there are so few is that Apple has such a small share of the market so no-one writes them yet. They call it security through obscurity.”

It therefore follows that as Macs get more popular, they will become bigger targets for hackers and crackers. Nigel Harris raised the issue in his most recent Mac blog post, which asked, Is the Mac still safe online?

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About John Stokdyk

John Stokdyk is the global editor of AccountingWEB UK and


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29th Feb 2012 12:59


I'm platform agnostic. Where I do have concerns is anyone using "cloud" style storage or passing any customer data through the "cloud". It is very hard for someone to reach into your office machines, with the proviso that you keep your firewall and anti-virus in place. No matter what anyone says, data passed into the wilds of the internet is insecure. The most insecure threat coming from "inside jobs" as it were.

Secondly, I have issues when it comes to using devices that use operating systems which log positional information or using any web based service that tracks and/or profiles your activity.


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29th Feb 2012 13:15

pc for me

your evidence sounds a little ropey to me.  I know of accountants who use macs for personal stuff, but I have only ever once come across a mac in an accounting department, and even that was not used with any accounting software.  BUT if you are going to get all modern about this you should consider the rise of the ipad and iphone, where perhaps the evidence might be stronger.  Must admit I have only ever seen an expenses claim submitted by phone during a product demo, but at least with this kit there is the volume to justify a bit of hype!

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29th Feb 2012 14:28

Mac sales rising anyway....

Interesting article John.

Certainly Mac sales are increasing in general anyway and much of this is to do with the increase in cloud services in general.

If practices specifically want to take advantage of smarter, neater kit (Mac, iPad) then they have the option of VMware, Bootcamp or using RDP to launch hosted applications that are essentially only available for Windows (IRIS, DIGITA, CCH, etc).

So many options! - we look forward to any surveys you do later in the year as things are definitely changing.



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29th Feb 2012 14:30

OS is becoming irrelevant

As a long term Mac user and ex-Microsoft employee, I'm a seasoned veteran in this area.

Couching this shift in terms of - is the Mac ready for office use? - is actually relevant and moot in equal measure.

Relevant in the sense that some corporate networks aren't readily configured for Macs which involves a degree of going off piste on behalf of IT managers - and regardless of how easy it is to get Macs on Windows networks, it's something some IT Managers have become conditioned against.

It's also relevant in terms of some specialised apps only run on Windows, and to get them to run on Macs requires a couple of extra - but trivial - steps in terms of virtualization or dual booting Windows / OS X.

And finally, entry level Macs are typically twice the price of entry level PCs which is fine if it's a small team, but gets painful when it's a case of standardising on Macs in a bigger team.

But all this is ultimately moot in the context of a progressive shift away from the archetype Windows desktop paradigm most people have been running with since 1995.

Whether it's Macs or smartphones, progressively people are using technology on a broad spectrum of devices and form factors - the Mac is just the historic alternative platform to Windows in terms of desktop form factor.

Regardless of how we'll be using and accessing technology, one thing is for sure and that's the fact that the days of the native Windows app are definitely numbered.

Gary Turner
Managing Director, Xero

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29th Feb 2012 14:49

Sharing my own experience

Looking at the Google Analytics stats for, which I believe has an above-normal level of Mac enthusiasts as members, provides the following analysis:

In the past 12 months we had almost 12,000 visits. Of those visitors just over 60% were using Windows machines. Many of our members are accountants but many are also small business owners.

I am not sure how much this tells us statistically, but I take the view that Mac use has increased substantially on the back of, originally, the iPod and iTunes.

The fact that new software and services can be accessed from the internet, rather than being installed software, means that the Windows PC is less relevant.

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29th Feb 2012 16:05

Why didn't I think of that?!

Some very useful figures, Adrian - thanks. I wish I'd thought to take a look at our traffic before I published the article! Your findings, which certainly represent a huge shift from the typical 95%-5% split I used to ascribe to Windows v Mac users, prompted me to take a quick look at our traffic stats. This is the breakdown on AccountingWEB over the past month:

 Little change there, then, but the figures for the same period in 2009 (before Nigel and others made their moves to Macland) show the Windows percentage was 96.84% Windows versus 2.31% for the Mac.  So there is a significant migration under way, but as we have seen in other technology areas such as Cloud computing and remote/mobile working, accountants are still tending to lag behind the wider business population.

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29th Feb 2012 19:24

Xero application usage statistics by OS

To add some extra colour to this discussion, I asked Xero's infrastructure team to pull a report of user operating system distributions running Xero's online accounting application (not our marketing website) over the last 24 hours.

Here's what that looked like...

Gary Turner
Managing Director, Xero

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29th Feb 2012 21:14

For me it's the experience that has made all the difference

The discussions amongst accountants on this reminds me a bit of the debates 10-15 years ago with accountants who had only ever known Sage, eg "I've looked at QuickBooks but none of my clients would know what Accounts Receivable meant so it's not for me".  Don't knock it, till you have really tried it.

Until you've used a Mac, you have no idea how clunky and unfriendly a PC/Windows laptop really is, and when, like me, that's all you've known for 28 years, I count myself lucky that I challenged a Mac using client last year to show me why she would never go back to "the clunky side".

Obviously, if you are bound by Windows software, then it takes some time & effort to investigate how vmware and other solutions can work for you, but if you run a hosted windows desktop (or take the opportunity to do so) the world is your oyster.

The Macs just work, mine boots in 10 seconds, anything I plug in or instal just works and my screen at 13 inches is far easier on the eye than the 19 inches on my PC.

So none of the techie or scary virus stuff for me, I just like it for how easy it does things, how light it is, and how I don't have to wait for it to boot up or have to find a power supply when I'm sitting with a client.  With regard to costs, some of my clients have had the same MacBook for nearly 10 years, my 3 year old Dell Vostro feels as though it's 10 years old.

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01st Mar 2012 12:35

IT problems are a thing of the past

I am sole trader, one man band FCA, with around 70 clients.


I read the posts on Accountingweb with interest but this is the first time I have taken time out to post a comment (and no I don't work for Apple.) 


We migrated from Windows just over two years ago when our pcs came up for replacement. My wife nagged me and said 'Why don't we get an Apple? I know people who are devoted to them.'


I put up all the usual arguments that everybody uses pcs and Windows but agreed to look into it. Frankly after seeing the iMac 27" in the Apple store I was sold. A thing of beauty, sleek design and not a wire in sight, and so quiet, no irritating fan noises. So going from the premise that I have to make this work I bought it.


I admit that I did have teething problems. Irritating things like not being able to type £ (it would only type $'s). I also needed to run some pc applications (using Parallels) such as Outlook, upon which I keep my client database, emails and tasks. But then Microsoft introduced Windows for Mac 2011 which has worked perfectly and with no fuss. (The old Microsoft version caused be endless grief by for example duplicating emails and tasks. I spent hours on help lines to India).

I now only use Mac software (Lion) for all of my applications. You will hear this a lot from Mac users, 'It just works'. No more IT downtime.

Also no more wasted time watching Windows boot up, deleting spam emails or fear of viruses.

An application called Time Machine backs up the entire computer every hour wirelessly. So if your computer did die you could simply plug a new Mac in and you would be up and running in a few hours with all your old settings. Off site back up is done in the back ground using Dropbox.

Needless to say it works fantastically with iTunes (music is played throughout the house using Airport) and the photo application is stunning.

I am glad that I made the investment, not cheap, and have now joined the ranks of Apple devotees.




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By Albasas
01st Mar 2012 12:36

Return Of The Mac?

I have my doubts. Recently took advice on this from recording engineers and musicians who are Mac devotees and they say to paraphrase: "a Windows PC type operating system is your best bet for office documents, spreadsheets and the like."

Surely cloud computing will compromise security? Data protection, that sort of thing.

You don't need a Mac to go paperless either.

Americans love Macs and therein for me lies the real push towards these machines.



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01st Mar 2012 12:40

A little clarification on the historical perspective

I bought my first Mac on 1 November 1984 and with it came Multiplan (renamed Excel the following year). The agreement by Microsoft to provide software for the Mac at this early stage is documented in the Steve Jobs biography.

So it was over 5 years until I happened to be in America in May 2000 when Bill Gates came on TV to announce Windows 3.1 (the first version that worked (sort of)) and this will be when, I think, Windows users started to use Excel. Was there a version for non-Windows PCs running MS-DOS? I don't know. There were certainly plenty of spreadsheets and word processors in that competitive old world.

So I have been both a loyal Apple and Microsoft user from the start of my computing experience.

As you say, John, it was the strong presence of PCs in the business world (together with poor early sales of Macintoshes) running DOS and allied to Mainframes that led to dominance among Accountants.

For anyone thinking of changing I would say that the Microsoft Office and web browsing and email experiences will be no challenge to a Windows user. Personally I have no regrets that the likes of Sage are not available (though they will run very well on an emulator such as Parallels since both platforms use Intel chips)

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01st Mar 2012 13:46

Too Entrenched

I bought an iMac for home use two years ago but still get really frustrated by it.  I know a function will be in there somewhere but Mac logic is different to Windows so I cannot find it.  But there again I am still on Office 2003 on my PC because I hated The Ribbon in Office 2007, so I guess I am just someone who has no wish to change what already works well.


But I love my iPad!

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01st Mar 2012 14:10

the stats are interesting - thanks guys.

It strikes me (cynic that I am) that one way or another macs and pcs are the potential dinosaurs and mobile is the future.  After all the mac/pc argument is mostly about how similar functionality is delivered.  The processors might be different, and the design might be a talking point, but to be fair windows came along because of the mac, and they have been fighting each other ever since.

It will be interesting to see the next version of windows - the talk is that it will be "going tablet".  I don't know if the mac does this as well, but to my mind if it takes off it spells the end of the traditional windows pc (an by implication the mac as well) - consigned to niche applications.

I would love to hear someone who has moved over articulate something that is fundamentally different on the mac.  How much it costs, and how fast it boots, just isn't.

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01st Mar 2012 14:25

In my experience most Mac users, including large corporates) use WiFi connectivity because it is easier to setup than Windows and also because a lot use Mac laptops over desktops.

I mentioned that IMHO using Cloud or internet based storage solutions are possibly more insecure than "local" solutions, I came across another down-side of the Cloud - the potential for awesome computing power.

If you use Wifi connectivity, this may make you think :-

Similarly, if you use Wifi on the move for client based work, you should be aware that the guy sitting next to you in that coffee shop, may be using AirCrack on his laptop. This allows his laptop to spoof the coffee shop's WiFi access point and makes all data between your laptop and the internet insecure, in addition to possibly exposing orther security risks such as online banking passwords.

This has been a public service broadcast on behalf of ........ 

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01st Mar 2012 14:39

Macintosh usage at Clear Books up from 23.98% to 25.28%

Over at Clear Books comparing the app (not the marketing site) there has been an increase in Macintosh usage from June 2011 (when we started logging data) to Feb 2012 of 23.98% to 25.28%.

June 2011

Feb 2012

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01st Mar 2012 15:52

Mac and a Hosted Desktop

Macs are the way to go - subscribe to a provider of hosted desktops, such as Cirrus Stratus and get the best of both worlds.

The Mac for recreational/creative use and your hosted desktop via the browser for all your business applications such as Office/Sage/Pegasus/Dynamics etc etc

Then you can get the best out of your iPhone/iPad with the seamless integration.





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01st Mar 2012 15:57

Is it the rise of cloud that give users more choice?

John from FreshBooks here. I think the dominance of Windows always came from the applications people had and wanted to use, such as Excel (and still, Excel on Windows is hard to beat). There was simply no choice. However, once software started to move to the cloud, it has allowed Accountants and businesses to run their business on almost any machine (Mobile included) and combination of such. There is no longer a single application or need that would drive the decision to use a platform, allowing users to have a diversity of choice. This has allowed Macs usage to rise, with the catalyst of the iPhone etc to drive that. It's all just really exciting - small businesses and accountants get to pick and choose the perfect solution for them.

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01st Mar 2012 16:18

Following on from John C's comment

This mimics my experience, my Office, Iris, Acrobat and other Windows programs run far quicker, and with next to no downtime, on our hosted environment which leaves me to choose the best method to access them.

My 20something daughter doesn't own a computer and handles everything she wants on her iphone, whilst others swear by their iPads.  Whether it's my age, lack of dexterity or what, I need a manual keyboard and so my MacBook Air, at just over A4 size & less than half an inch thickness, suits my needs.

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01st Mar 2012 16:45

@listerramjet - Now that really is a question

The and AccountingWEB traffic figures in particular highlight yet another shift that is possibly even more significant that the Mac movement - with 6-7%+ using iPads/iPhones or Android devices.

I've been experimenting with smartphones recently and wondering how far away they are from being a true platform for business computing. I'm not convinced yet - but as the numbers here show, we are definitely heading in that direction.

Rather than hijacking this thread, where many people will be looking to see the specific pros and cons of the two desktop operating systems, I've started up a new thread in our Gadget Zone blog, asking Are desktops turning into dinosaurs?

I hope those of you interested in mobile computing options will join us to continue that discussion separtely.


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01st Mar 2012 18:14

Simply a device ....

... like a car or a lawn mower. So use the tool that fits your needs - frankly in todays environment it is not worth arguing about

MACs are gaining popularity spurred on by the Cloud (yes VMs as well) which makes platform dependance irrelevant & opens a world of new opportunities. Apple have always recognised this as evidenced by their continued attempts to provide a seamless iCloud solution for the past 12 years

However, with devices such as iPhones/Android security tends to be overlooked (until something hits the press) and you find all your contacts etc. have been harvested as well as anything else interesting on your device; which all goes to provide nice little earners for app. providers by selling on your data to others.


MACs have been used by the big 4 in the past & in fact believe that when EY was formed one side of the merger used MACs & the other PCs; think they standarised on PCs, although the split was generally Audit=MAC, rest=PC

VisiCalc was the original spreadsheet - starting on Apple & migrating to TRS-80 (various froms of DOS culminating in LDOS)


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to Ruddles
02nd Mar 2012 12:31

Devices, connectivity and security

JC wrote:

However, with devices such as iPhones/Android security tends to be overlooked (until something hits the press) and you find all your contacts etc. have been harvested as well as anything else interesting on your device; which all goes to provide nice little earners for app. providers by selling on your data to others.

Sorry to bang on about this (and apologies for those who think I'm hijacking the thread) but it is not just  iPhones/Android security that needs to be addressed, particularly when it comes to business use or data thereof. It pertains to any device that uses WiFi connectivity and loss of control of data placed in the Cloud. While on that subject though, it should also be said that with an Android device, the savvy user can stop the device leaking information by using apps that don't expose vulnerabilities. With Apple devices, this is not possible and third-party access to the device's in-built "hidden" databases, pose a risk too. "Jailbreaking" an iPhone only partially helps but could cause issues with warranties.


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By rslosek
01st Mar 2012 20:38

Unexpected benefit

This discussion has been very helpful in choosing which package to use for my target market, so thanks.

(Mac user)

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02nd Mar 2012 14:25

Moved to a Macbook Air from Windows laptops last August


I was certainly pushed that way because my iPad works so well. I'd had an issue with a charger failing on my previous machine - quickly replaced under warranty - and the light weight and good quality construction seemed attractive.

Or maybe it was because all the good guys in Stieg Larson's Millennium trilogy all use Macs!

Either way as Listeramjet says, it's not really the issue, because I still use it for the same things, just with different programmes. I have VM fusion because I use quickbooks and publisher, but everything else is just on the Mac. Excel, Word and Powerpoint suit me better than the Apple equivalents, but much to my surprise I was able to sever the umbilical chord with Outlook.

The security issue is more about what you do with the machine and how careful/blissfully ignorant you are rather than anything else and the helpful posts above all give pause for thought.

So I use the iPad for some things, the Macbook for others - they're both useful. I can feel myself being reeled in to the iPhone world so the blackberry may go before too long, but we've had mice for a long time, and yet we still use keyboards. iPads and spreadsheets are not ideal bedfellows as I have posted elsewhere on AW. The real shift seems to be in the balance between different devices and the rise of consumer devices which are better spec'd than those provided by IT departments


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02nd Mar 2012 20:29


Freudian slip on cord/chord!

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06th Mar 2012 07:59

Why Macs are over-represented in Cloud applications

There is one obvious reason why Macs would be over-represented amongst the users of Cloud applications, and I'm not sure that anyone has mentioned it (apologies if I'm repeating someone else's observation and I missed it)

MS Windows has a vast choice of desktop apps that aren't for the most part available to run natively on a Mac. For example in my own field, payroll software, so far as I am aware there is not a single HMRC Accredited commercial software package designed to run natively on Mac (against about 100 available for Windows). UK Payroll vendors have all independently made the commercial decision that the Mac market isn't currently big enough to justify the development costs of a port/conversion. So someone who has purchased a Mac and wants a payroll has the choice between a non-accredited package (if they can find one that fits their needs, which would probably be a struggle) or Parallels/Bootcamp, or to use a Cloud payroll application. So of course cloud vendors will see a much higher density of Mac users. The Mac users have far fewer alternatives to the offerings of the Cloud.

Lest somebody accuse me of being anti-Mac in this observation (the last time I pointed this out on an internet forum I got flamed by several Mac fans who thought that I'd said that Macs aren't as good as PCs, which I hadn't said at all and I don't believe) I personally love Apple products. But commercial reality dictates which platforms my company (and many others) will develop native software for unless the market penetration of Macs increases considerably from its current c.4%.

The situation with eg bookkeeping applications isn't quite so extreme but the disparity is still there.

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06th Mar 2012 10:57

RIP : Native PC Business Apps

The market share argument was a valid justification for PC software vendors electing to not develop for the Mac in the past, but it's a little more interesting today because developing apps for the cloud effectively makes them platform independent, so why would you limit your app's audience to just the PC user base?

Indeed, I'd even go as far as saying that we'll never see a new native PC business app developed ever again...

Gary Turner
Managing Director, Xero


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