As Apple desktop use grows, IT adapts

Mac adoption grows in enterprise with assist from iOS devices

el capitan macbook desktop

SANTA CLARA, CALIF. -- Widespread iPhone and iPad adoption is influencing broader use of Apple products in the enterprise, namely desktops and laptops. One enterprise seeing this is University of Nevada at Reno, where academic freedom at the research university also means the freedom to choose an OS.

This is primarily a Windows campus, but Apple Mac OS adoption is steadily rising among university employees. About 14% of the faculty and staff are now using the Apple desktop, said Steve LeBlanc, a support technician at the university.

"More and more people are using iPhones and iPads," said LeBlanc, "and when their cycle comes up to replace their desktops they are going Apple."

The university has been playing "catch-up," in managing its growing Apple inventory, and about six months ago adopted Janf Software's Apple management platform, called Casper. LeBlanc said that the management of Apple products is not burdensome. "It's just something else we have to take on and we do it," he said.

Apple's growth in the enterprise is evident in the company's overall sales. In 2001, Apple claimed only 2.3% of worldwide computing clients --desktops/laptops, tablets and mobile phones -- against Microsoft's 97.1% market share. But that was then.

Apple's client share reached 16.3% worldwide at the end of 2014, said Ben Bajarin, an analyst and principal at Creative Strategies, at the MacIT conference here.

The PC industry is being roiled by declining sales, some of which has to do with organizations waiting for Windows 10 to roll out. But among Apple products, sales are increasing.

"We don't see Mac growth slowing," said Bajarin, who said that if anything the increasing lifecycle of PCs -- around six years -- may be encouraging people to make a greater investment in a device, something that helps Apple.

Enterprise Mac adoption is also helped by Millennials, the generation born after 1980.

"It's almost coming to the point where it is essential to deploy Macs to cater to them" [Millennials] in the workplace, Bajarin said. "They are the fastest growing demographic for Mac ownership."

IT may have little choice but to drop any lingering resistance to adoption of Apple; supporting mixed desktop environments may become much more the norm in the years ahead. But there remain obstacles to widespread Apple adoption.

In the past year the Washington State Dept. of Transportation began using around 800 iPads that employees carry with them in the field for inspections.

The Android platform was looked at as a potential alternative to the iPad but later discounted because of security issues posed by the lack of management controls. "We can control the iOS and iPad devices," said Light.

But Light doesn't see Apple Mac OS replacing Windows desktops entirely because his group uses specialty Windows applications for designing roads and bridges.

For those IT departments that have deployed Apple, there are some management advantages. In particular, there are no serial number requirements in making a clone. In other words, the OS isn't tied a particular computer, said Peter Gnemmi, one of two people who manage 800 Mac OS-based systems used by the dental school at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada. This allows them to easily clone one computer onto another while a system is being repaired.

"We are actually only managing a single computer," said Gnemmi, "We can manage desktops and laptops identically."

Gnemmi said that what distinguishes Apple is that it tries to make money, and builds high-quality products. That profit margin helps "with the quality of the product, so I'm not fooling around with it," he said.

This story, "As Apple desktop use grows, IT adapts" was originally published by Computerworld.

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