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Mac-savvy Obama staffers frustrated with legacy White House

Robert Palmer

According to the Washington Post, the incoming U.S. presidential administration has inherited quite the challenging IT environment: The White House.

President Obama's staff -- accustomed to Macs, social media, and having the latest equipment -- found Windows PCs with Microsoft Office 2003 in their new offices. Laptops were "scarce," apparently, and the team had trouble finding ways to update the redesigned White House website and add subtitles to web videos. Perhaps they were misled by the prominence of Mac hardware in the fictional-but-familiar West Wing version of the executive mansion.

Valleywag's Owen Thomas suggests that Obama's staff are "whiners." "Outside the Manhattan media bubble and Silicon Valley's startup cube farms, this is how most Americans work. Want a Macintosh? Sorry, IT hasn't approved it. Oh, you need to use Facebook to interact with customers? Sorry, that site's blocked -- and management suspects that 'social media' is a buzzword which means 'getting paid to waste time chatting with friends.'"

Part of the reason for the White House's legacy systems is related to the need to retain all computer records for the National Archives, and protect all kinds of communication (from emails to IMs to tweets) on the network for national security reasons. This task isn't impossible with a Mac -- some might say it's easier to accomplish with a Mac than with a PC -- but there will be a lot of sleepless nights for the White House's new IT staff while the new system is set up. Meanwhile, the tech-friendly new Commander in Chief appears to have won his first geek battle; he is going to get to keep his Blackberry [or something like it; Engadget clarifies that we don't know the details yet, but press secretary Robert Gibbs said it was indeed a BlackBerry during today's press briefing (his first) -Ed.] subject to a security overhaul by an unnamed federal agency (assumed to be the NSA).

With the new administration's focus on change, it seems as though a new tech infrastructure and business rules for the executive office of the President are in the cards. It remains to be seen if our favorite platform, though, makes the cut.

Thanks to Michael and Joe for sending this in.

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