Will Next Major Version of Mac OS X Spur Enterprise Adoption?

Greater ties between Mac OS X and iOS would be good news for enterprises.

After a year of iPhone and iPad news, Apple will shift attention back to the Mac next week. The Enterprise Desktop Alliance, a consortium of Mac management vendors, hopes to see closer ties between iOS and Mac OS X.

"Will Apple bring the iOS into the Mac OS? iPhone and iPad apps working on your MacBook Pro would be somewhat revolutionary," says Peter Frankl, vice president of lifecycle management at Absolute Software, a software and services provider for managing desktops and also an Enterprise Desktop Alliance member. "In discussions with some of my engineers, they felt it was feasible."

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Enterprise Desktop Alliance also provided CIO.com with results of its latest customer survey of 460 organizations (not including education institutions), which shows a rise in Mac enterprise adoption. A key finding: The number of Macs will increase in the enterprise by 57 percent, between 2009 and 2011, making Macs the fastest growing type of computer while Windows computers decline.

"Even some of the organizations that say they have no Macs whatsoever seem to be considering Macs," Frankl says. Macs are present in 65 percent of the sites, but that figure is expected to grow to 67 percent next year.

Will Lion Stalk the iPhone?

Earlier this week, Apple announced a press event on October 20th that promises "a sneak peek of the next major version of Mac OS X." The invitation, which shows a lion peeking behind an Apple logo, ignited speculation about what might be coming. In addition to a Mac OS X 10.7 preview, industry watchers are predicting new features for iLife and iWork and a possible upgrade to MacBook Air (since it's been more than a year since the last Air update).

Although Apple's press event is billed as "back to the Mac," Frankl is hopeful that iOS will be a part of the upcoming Mac OS X 10.7. "You have a lot of users of iPhones and iPads who are still using Windows devices, and this could bring them into the fold on the computer side," he says. "It would increase Mac adoption around the enterprise."

Macs are coming into the enterprise on the coattails of iPhones and iPads, Frankl explains. C-level executives are bringing Apple's mobile devices to work. As they become more familiar with Apple's ecosystem, they're wanting Macs, too. By integrating the two operating systems, Frankl says, Apple can protect its ecosphere.

One group that would benefit from such an integration is IT staffers, who have shown to be early adopters of the iPad. They use apps on iPhones and iPads mostly to monitor and manage systems and servers. "If you can have that single [systems management] app sitting on your desktop in OS X 10.7, then it's going to warrant perhaps switching over from a PC to a Mac," Frankl says.

MacBook Air Ready for a Refresh

With regards to a potential MacBook Air refresh, the Enterprise Desktop Alliance doesn't run into many MacBook Air laptops among customers. Frankl figures corporate road warriors will either carry a MacBook Pro for long trips or an iPad for shorter ones. But a new MacBook Air with additional ports could usher in MacBook Air computers into companies. "That's what you always hear at the enterprise level," Frankl says.

Frankl would also like to see better compatibility between iWorks and Microsoft Office. Right now, opening Excel spreadsheets on iWorks is not a pleasant experience, he says.

It should be noted that the Enterprise Desktop Alliance doesn't have any special insight from Apple about next week's announcement. In fact, the consortium learned of Apple's press event along with everyone else when Apple sent out the invitation earlier this week.

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