by Shane O'Neill

Microsoft Beware: 2009 Could Be Apple’s Year in the Enterprise

Dec 17, 20084 mins
Data Center

I remember glancing at an issue of BusinessWeek last spring and the cover story was “The Mac in the Gray Flannel Suit.” I thought the idea of Macs infiltrating the corporate world was premature.

I agreed that the levee was gonna break someday, but that it would be five or 10 years before you would see Macs at an insurance company. A small insurance company, maybe. But big corporations? It seems too complicated with all those Windows legacy systems and IT departments that have made long-term server and client software plans based on the Windows framework. Plus, Apple has no grounded experience catering to the technology roadmaps that enterprises need.

I’ve read similar stories lately about Apple making enterprise inroads and spoken to analysts and users about Mac/PC hybrid environments and the increasing use of iPhones at businesses. Each week I become more convinced that Apple’s slow burn in the enterprise is starting to ignite, despite Windows’ 90 percent market share.

In the time since the BusinessWeek story was published in May, C-Level executives have boosted their Mac plans considerably. Some of the most convincing numbers to support this claim were revealed this week in an independent survey of 700 C-Level executives and IT managers by ITIC/Sunbelt Software that delivers some unsettling news for Microsoft.

More than two thirds (68 percent) of respondents said they will allow their employees to use Macs as their corporate enterprise desktops in the next 12 months, a rate double that of a similar survey by the Yankee Group conducted eight months ago.

Some other numbers from the survey:

  • Half of all the survey respondents said they plan to increase integration with existing Apple consumer products such as the iPhone to allow users to access corporate email and other applications. This indicates that customers perceive the combination of the Mac and the iPhone to be a viable alternative to the Blackberry as a mobile device running corporate applications.

  • Seven out of 10 businesses rated the security of the Apple Mac and OS X as Excellent or Very Good.

  • An 82 percent majority of corporations rated the reliability of the Mac hardware and OS X 10.x as Excellent or Very Good.

  • Approximately 30 percent of the survey respondents are using Macs as the hardware platform to virtualize Microsoft’s Windows XP or Vista on Macintosh hardware in a virtual environment.

  • Pretty convincing numbers, but it’s not as if Apple will just saunter into giant corporations and kick all the PCs to the curb. Enterprise Mac integration is an expensive risk and will take time because IT departments are still handcuffed by decisions made 10 to 15 years ago when Windows utterly dominated the corporate market. Also, one has to wonder if Apple wants to be embraced by enterprises, or is even prepared for it. After all, who’s been buttering Apple’s bread for decades? Consumers, consumers, consumers.

    But the demand for Macs at work, coming mostly from restless Apple-loving employees, is reaching an inflection point based on numbers like those from the ITIC survey as well as Microsoft’s well-known perception, marketing and technical problems with Windows Vista. Also, an influx of young people raised on Macs entering the workforce should only increase Apple’s enterprise momentum in the next few years.

    Laura DiDio, principal at ITIC and conductor of the survey, predicts market share of Mac OS X could double by 2011.

    “I’m not going to proclaim that Macs are going to sweep Windows away in a tidal wave, but this is clearly Apple’s best showing in the enterprise in the last 20 years,” DiDio says.

    Are you an IT manager in an enterprise environment and considering Macs? Are you staying with Windows? Either way, feel free to share your thoughts.