Is the Mac really invading the enterprise sector?

Sections: Mac OS X, Operating Systems, Originals, Windows

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According to a market study by Good Technology, the iPad owns 90-plus percent of the enterprise tablet market. However, it’s not just iOS that’s making inroads on erstwhile Microsoft turf these days. VMware’s VP of Marketing, End-User Computing Erik Frieberg contends in a blog that Microsoft Windows’s decades-long dominance of the enterprise desktop environment is coming to an end, thanks to corporate BYOPC and BYOD policies transforming enterprise computing ecosystems, and Macs having become a popular and preferred option compared to Windows PCs.

MacBook Air and iPhone

Frieberg draws our attention to a VMware commissioned survey of 376 IT professionals that was conducted by Dimensional Research to assess the current state of enterprise desktops. The survey produced a report titled “The Apple Enterprise Invasion,” with results Frieberg interprets as clearly showing Windows is losing its grip on the enterprise. He suggests the results’ most significant revelation is that Windows is no longer the platform of choice in the enterprise, at least among users who overwhelmingly prefer Macs, as indicated by the data. User preference is the top reason given by surveyed IT administrators as to why they’re supporting Macs, with 73 percent of IT administrators identifying that factor as the main driver fuelling Mac adoption. The study found 66 percent of businesses are already using Macs in the workplace, and more than 70 percent of companies officially support Macs as a corporate endpoint.

The top three justifications cited by employees for wanting a Mac were:

  • Macs are easier to use (73 percent)
  • Macs are cooler (52 percent)
  • The Mac display (or perhaps more precisely the Mac user interface?) is better than Windows (42 percent)

On its Business Macs site, Apple emphasizes OS X security advantages, noting that OS X Mavericks is built on a rock-solid UNIX foundation and supports advanced technologies that work together to constantly monitor, encrypt, update—and ultimately keep data safer, and that the Gatekeeper feature makes it safer to download and install apps. FileVault safeguards data using strong encryption, and sandboxing protects your Mac by isolating apps from each other, as well as from your system and your data. Virtual private network (VPN) access enables offsite users to securely connect to an organization’s network. OS X Server includes VPN on demand, which allows every Mac to automatically connect to a network and its services securely while also preventing unauthorized access. VPN Server supports L2TP/IPSec and PPTP protocols to provide encryption and remote access for Mac computers, iPad and iPhone devices, and Windows PCs.

Apple notes that also making life easier for IT support staff, Profile Manager in OS X Server can simplify deploying, configuring, and managing Mac systems and iOS devices in organization settings. IT departments can create profiles to set up user accounts for Mail, Calendar, Contacts, and Messages; configure system settings; enforce restrictions; and set password policies—all from one place, and Profile Manager can be used to distribute apps and books bought via the Volume Purchase Program for more control over content.

Apple Products

Nevertheless, the Dimensional Research survey revealed that traditional IT professional antipathy to the Mac remains a significant inhibiting factor holding back Mac adoption in the enterprise, finding that 75 percent of IT administrators think Macs are not easier to support than Windows PCs and don’t offer better security advantages. Moreover, many critical business applications don’t support the Mac, with 64 percent of IT administrators indicating that none or only some of their enterprise applications currently run on Macs.

More optimistically, the top Macs in enterprise capabilities cited as most valuable to IT administrators are all related to productivity and security:

  • Ability to run Microsoft Office on a Mac (59 percent)
  • Ability to enable secure access to enterprise applications (59 percent)
  • Ability to run Windows on a Mac (41 percent)

However, InformationWeek’s Michael Endler cautions against unwarranted exuberance in the Mac community based on this and a few other recent surveys pointing to Apple gaining ground in enterprise IT. Endler acknowledges that Apple is making some progress on that front, but emphasizes that projections predicting that Macs will supplant Windows PCs in the workplace are premature, noting that Windows still holds over 90 percent of the market, and OS X having actually lost share so far in 2014. In April, Apple reported its fiscal second-quarter earnings that included 4.14 million Mac sales, a slight increase year-over-year during an interval when the overall PC industry was shrinking.

However, Endler points to research firm Gartner metrics showing that during Apple’s fiscal second quarter most PC industry losses derived from Acer’s business implosion and similar struggles among smaller OEM vendors, while Lenovo, Dell, HP, and Asus all shipped more units in the quarter year-over-year. He also observes that the Dimensional Research survey’s sample size of 376 participants was small, and that 80 percent of respondents were in the United States where Apple products’ popularity is disproportionately greater than elsewhere. Also, Endler notes, while the survey found 71% of respondents’ companies support Apple computers, only 66% said people actually use Macs at work. He observes that companies generally commission and release these sorts of studies in aid of supporting product sales.

For example VMWare’s Freiberg notes that virtual desktops such as such as VMWare’s Fusion Professional can serve as a helpful tool to bridge the gap between two disparate operating systems in the business environment, with the survey finding that 89 percent of IT professionals affirming that it would be valuable to have a virtual desktop that can run Windows on a Mac, and 91 percent of respondents valuing the ability to run the same virtual desktop on multiple platforms such as Windows, Mac and Linux, also observing that virtual desktops allow organizations to standardize on the Windows platform in order to support legacy business critical applications without any interruption to business, while still giving employees the option to select their computer of choice.

On the other hand, Endler notes that VMware’s findings echo several similar reports, including a survey of 309 IT pros by JAMF Software, in which 90 percent of respondents indicated their company supports iOS devices, and some 60% affirmed support for Macs; the above-mentioned market study by Good Technology (PDF) showing the iPad owning 90-plus percent of the enterprise tablet market; the research firm Forrester reporting an uptick in enterprise Mac adoption in a June interview with InformationWeek.

MacBook Enterprise

Notwithstanding those positive indicators, Endler points out that according to Forrester’s most recent survey data, Macs account for only two percent of enterprise desktops, six percent of enterprise laptops, and that only eight percent of employees want their next work device to be a Mac. However, setting surveys aside, he also notes that during Apple’s’s earnings call in April, company brass reported that Macs had gained market share in 31 of the past 32 quarters, and MacBooks selling particularly robustly.

However, the takeaway seems to be that while it’s encouraging to see Macs gaining ground in the enterprise, and anti-Apple bias in the corporate IT world melting somewhat, it appears that talk of a Mac enterprise invasion is indeed fanciful and premature. Microsoft stockholders need not be losing any sleep, at least about an imminent Mac challenge to Windows enterprise hegemony.

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