Apple surprised everyone this week when it announced that Mac OS X Mavericks is free and available. Mac lovers cheered, many of whom use their personal computers for work as happy members of the BYOD movement. You could almost hear them scurrying to their old Macs to be the first to download Mavericks.
[Slideshow: The 10 Best New Features in OS X Mavericks]
If you listened closely enough, you could also make out the groan of IT departments everywhere.
While many CIOs and software vendors say Mavericks is rich with enterprise-class features - a testament to Apple's growing affection for companies - they're quick to point out that Apple's love for consumers still trumps the needs of corporate computing environments.
Nevertheless, Mavericks, along with exciting new MacBooks and a refreshed iWork productivity suite (free with the purchase of a new Apple computer), has the potential to shake up the enterprise landscape.
Apple Hopes to Repeat OS Download History
By making Mavericks free and backward compatible as far back as the 2007 iMac, Apple hopes for a Mavericks download spike resembling the recently released iOS 7 for mobile devices. Only five days after Apple unleashed iOS 7 (also free), more than 200 million iPhones and iPads were running on the new platform. That's nearly two-thirds of all iOS devices. It's a good bet that Mac owners will rush to do the same thing with Mavericks.
"What's most important to us is seeing Mavericks in as many hands as possible," Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software engineering at Apple, told the crowd at this week's event.
Unfortunately for IT departments, Apple didn't give them much of a heads-up to prepare for the surging Mavericks wave. Reports are that IT departments were cautioning, or rather pleading with, their employees not to perform the upgrade until it had a chance to test Mavericks out. Will Microsoft Office, printers, WiFi, VPN clients and other software and peripherals continue to work as expected after the operating system upgrade?
"Having access to tools, software and support that is also tested with and around Mavericks becomes very important for the IT organization," says CTO Jason Wudi at JAMF, a software vendor for enterprise management of Apple devices.
"Apple is continuing to do a great job providing backwards compatibility with every major release, but there will also be a significant surge of updates from many software companies that release with support for Mavericks," Wudi says.
Bring on BYOD
While the fast and furious - and free - release of Mavericks will cause havoc for IT departments, Mavericks itself is a solid enterprise player, especially in support of BYOD. Wudi cites Mavericks' improvements, such as data protection through FileVault 2 and data-in-transit protections through on-demand VPN, that open the doors for configuration capabilities.
[Related: Apple Gives Away OS X Mavericks]
"From a BYOD angle, Mavericks addresses a lot of enterprise concerns with automatic MDM enrollment or organization-owned devices and more advanced password policies," adds CEO Tom Kemp at Centrify, a provider of unified identity services.
Enterprise-class features aside, Apple knows consumers have the final say. Will free Mavericks running on flashy new MacBook Pros spur more employees to spend their hard-earned cash - a 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1,299 - and join the BYOD crowd?
Yes and no, says David Johnson, principal analyst at Forrester.
There are a lot of attractive features for BYODers but no game-changers, he says. Power-saving features such as App Nap will mean road warriors won't have to pull out the power cord and recharge as often. Mavericks retools Finder to make iCloud more pervasive, so BYODers are more likely to use it for file storage rather than Dropbox. The capability to use HDTV as a second display with Airplay will also come in handy in the conference room.
"Mavericks will continue to help Macs gain mind and wallet share from IT BYOD business consumers, but won't spur a sea change," Johnson says.
Tom Kaneshige covers Apple, BYOD and Consumerization of IT for CIO.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn. Email Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org