How the Mac is invading the enterprise

15-inch Retina MacBook Pro
Image: Michael Homnick

There’s been a lot of talk lately about how Apple is finally making big inroads into the enterprise. Most of the hubbub centers around a new study by Dimensional Research for JAMF Software, finding that use of Apple products in the enterprise has doubled in the past three years. The study – called Managing Apple Devices in the Enterprise: A Survey of IT Professionals—is a little fuzzy on calling out the various products, but most of that increase is no doubt due to the rise of the iPhone and iPad. So what about the Macintosh in the enterprise? Is the expiration of Windows XP and the relative unpopularity of Windows 8 finally driving corporate America to the Mac? That would be big news, as the Mac’s enterprise penetration has traditionally languished below 10%.

Maybe not. According to Net Applications, most of the XP refugees seem to be choosing Windows 7 instead of Apple’s OS X, although the study did say 60% of enterprises surveyed support Mac computers.

San Francisco loves its Macs

But from my perspective in the tech-crazy San Francisco Bay Area (home to Apple, of course, but also to Intel, HP, and other traditional tech vendors), Macs have cemented their position as standard-equipment at web companies large and small.

That’s true for one-person startups setting up shop in the local Starbucks, but also for the fast-growing midsize companies that are engine of the modern web economy. Perhaps more importantly, Macs also dominate at the titans of the web world, like Google, Facebook, and Twitter. Seeing someone from these types of companies toting a Windows computer (or even a Microsoft Surface) is unusual enough to stick out like a sore thumb, and often engenders gentle ribbing.

Crazy? Or crazy like a fox?

"So what?" you say. "Those crazy West Coast tech companies are slaves to computer fashion and are rolling in so much venture capital that they have no problem paying top dollar for fancy Macs for their still relatively small workforces."

True enough, but those same crazy Bay Area companies have also been trailblazing a large number of paths that more traditional enterprises once pooh-poohed, and in which they are now scrambling to catch up: cloud computing, Software-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service, BYOD, building data centers out of low-cost commodity hardware, and the list goes on.

Does that mean the Fortune 500 is about to ditch all their clunky old Windows laptops for sleek MacBook Airs? Not likely. Change comes slowly in large organizations.

But the survey found that the biggest reason for Apple’s bigger role in the enterprise was employee choice, and BYOD policies may let more employees choose Macs. A recent Forrester survey reportedly found that 8% of workers want their next computer to be a Mac.

That’s still a small chunk of the total, of course, but don’t be surprised if even conservative companies gradually become more comfortable with Macs in their midst. San Francisco values may not be immediately embraced by the rest of the country, but they have a way of catching on over time.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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