I must be missing something.
The cost of employing a programmer in my area is $50 to $100 an hour. A top end machine is only $3,000, so the cost of buying a truly great computer every three years comes to $0.50/hour. ($3000/(150 wks * 40 hours))
Do you need a top-end machine? No, the $3000 here is to represent the most that could possibly be spent not the amount that I would expect. That's roughly the cost of a top-end iMac or MacBook (17 inch).
So suppose you can save $2000 every three years by buying cheaper computers, and your average developer is making $60. (These are the most charitable numbers that I can offer the bean-counters. If you only save $1000, or $750, it only strengthens my case.) If those cheaper computers only cost you 10 minutes of productivity a day. (Not at all a stretch, I'm sure that my machine costs me more than that.) then over 3 years the 125 lost hours would add up to a loss of $7500. A loss of 1 minute a day ($750) would give a net gain of $1250, which would hardly offset the cost of poor morale.
Is this a case of "penny-wise and pound-foolish" or have I oversimplified the question? Why isn't there universal agreement (even in the 'enterprise') that software developers should have great hardware?
Edit: I should clarify that I'm not talking about a desire for screaming fast performance that would make my friends envious, and/or a SSD. I'm talking about machines with too little RAM to handle their regular workload, which leads to freezing, rebooting, and (no exaggeration) approximately 20 minutes to boot and open the typical applications on a normal Monday. (I don't shut down except for weekends.)
I'm actually slated to get a new machine soon, and it will improve things somewhat. (I'll be going from 2GB to 3GB RAM, here in 2011.) But since the new machine is mediocre by current standards, it is reasonable to expect that it will also be unacceptable before its retirement date.
Wait! before you answer or comment:
- $3000 doesn't matter. If the machine you want costs less than that, that's all the more reason that it should have been purchased.
- I'm not asking for more frequent upgrades. Just better hardware on the same schedule. So there is no hidden cost of installation, etc.
- Please don't discuss the difference between bleeding edge hardware and very good hardware. I'm lobbying for very good hardware, as in a machine that is, at worst, one of the best machines made three years ago.
- $50 - $100 / hour is an estimate of employment cost - not salary. If you work as a contractor it would be the billing rate the contracting agency uses which includes their expenses and profit, the employers Social Sec. contribution, employers health care contribution etc. Please don't comment on this number unless you know it to be unrealistic.
- Make sure you are providing new content. Read all answers before providing another one.