The popularity of Apple devices among business only really began with the iPhone, subsequently boosted by the iPad. Mac computers have traditionally been limited to the creative professions.
Tech Pro Research analyst, Jordan Golson observes: "Apple accounts for less than 20 percent of the hardware budget at two-thirds of companies surveyed, and while nearly all companies using Apple products are using its iPhone and iPad portable devices, the pricier Mac is still far behind in adoption.”
However, with changing working patterns and Apple’s credibility as the leader in mobility, is encouraging IT users to look at Mac as their desktop workhorse.
“Apple’s dominance in enterprise mobility is unparalleled,” says Box CEO Aaron Levie. The Good Technology Mobility Index Report shows iOS’s share in device activation across enterprise markets reached 64 percent in Q2 2015. (Good Technology was recently acquired by BlackBerry for $425 million). When it comes to enterprise markets, Apple is taking the lion’s share of new deployments.
Despite the mobile advantage, there appears to be ample space for higher levels of Mac deployment. An April JAMF Software/Dimensional Data survey of US enterprise users found that while over 90% of businesses use Apple products, just 60% support Macs. Again, IBM’s recent move to purchase up to 200,000 Macs to replace the aging Lenovo PCs the company has deployed.
Apple is doing what it can to stimulate enterprise sales for the Mac. The future OS X iteration, El Capitan, is festooned with user interface features designed to make it easy for iOS device users to switch to the Mac. Maps, gesture-based controls and applications designed to work in similar fashion across all platforms are developed with the aim of easing the process of migrating to Mac for any iOS user. (Even the new split screen view in OS X El Capitan echoes the new split screen view available in iPads using iOS 9).
Demonstrating that it means business, Apple has been working with major players in enterprise IT to show it is serious – and committed – to the sector.
Apple and IBM are developing data-driven mobile apps for vertical markets. This has gone so well that IBM now offers Mac deployment services for its own enterprise clients.
Apple and Cisco have agreed that Cisco-based networks and iOS devices will be optimized to work together more efficiently and reliably. This means Cisco’s Unified Communications products will become seamlessly compatible with Apple’s and Apple’s solutions will enjoy even better support on many enterprise networks.
Apple and VMware work together in order that VMware software is compatible with all new iOS releases as soon as they ship. Sanjay Deshmukh, general manager, Business Mobility, VMware APJ says, "Apple is a preferred platform for enterprise mobility in many markets. For instance, Japan is often referred to as the Apple country. The percentage of iOS devices within the enterprise there is phenomenal. It is over 80% according to some reports.”
Deployment of Apple solutions within enterprise shops isn’t the nightmare it was a decade ago. From built-in support for Microsoft Exchange and the ability to run Windows on Mac OS, Apple has focused on easing the burden of integrating mixed platform networks. Apple’s Device Enrolment Program makes it easy to add an Apple product to any enterprise.
Apple is partnering with EMM vendors MobileIron and AirWatch to simplify deployment of third-party apps including Box, DocuSign and MicroStrategy.
OS X ships with a native Active Directory (AD) plug-in, connects to Microsoft Exchange through the Mac Mail client or Outlook, and supports all standard networking, printing, and file share protocols. “There’s no reason to segregate the Mac environment. Go ahead, bind the Macs to AD, connect all your network shares, and bring them into the fold,” says JAMF Software’s CTO.
With the introduction of iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan, the company has made significant improvements in its volume purchase program, and introduced support for dedicated enterprise app stores. The company continues to work with MDM vendors to ensure good platform support.
When it comes to cost, an April study by Tech Pro Research found 31 percent of enterprise users saw a reduction in the amount of time it took to train employees to use Apple solutions in comparison with other platforms, while 23 percent experienced longer and cheaper upgrade cycles.
Driven by the popularity of iOS among employees, there’s no guarantee every enterprises will hit the Mac switch. Even at General Electric where employees can use their choice of platforms just 10,000 of 170,000 office workers use Macs.
The biggest challenge to any wider deployment is integration of legacy business applications. Most companies use custom-built applications and databases that are incompatible with Apple’s platforms.
Forrester analyst, JP Gownder says technology decision-makers currently favor Windows over iOS for ease of support by 42 percent to 16 percent.
"Enterprises have spent billions on applications that are unique to their business and having 40 apps from IBM doesn't change that fact overnight," he said.
This may change, the digital transformation of everything is forcing many enterprises to upgrade legacy technologies to better exploit the digital opportunity.
"Nearly every Fortune 500 and Global 500 company today has put iOS at the center of their mobile strategy," said Apple CEO, Tim Cook.
With this as the new IT environment, today’s CIOs are far more likely to prioritize Apple’s device support across their enterprise, opening the door to future Mac deployments as they do.
Jon Evans is a highly experienced technology journalist and editor. He has been writing for a living since 1994. These days you might read his daily regular Computerworld AppleHolic and opinion columns. Jon is also technology editor for men's interest magazine, Calibre Quarterly, and news editor for MacFormat magazine, which is the biggest UK Mac title. He's really interested in the impact of technology on the creative spark at the heart of the human experience. In 2010 he won an American Society of Business Publication Editors (Azbee) Award for his work at Computerworld.