by Shane O'Neill

Mac Enterprise Movement: Pay Attention Microsoft

Nov 04, 20113 mins
AppleComputers and PeripheralsLaptops

A few years ago, Forrester said enterprises should only support Windows and forget Macs. Now it says enterprises that don't support Macs will be labeled as irrelevant. This about-face reflects a cultural shift in the enterprise and Microsoft should be concerned.

The desire for Mac laptops is creating some tension in the enterprise these days as more workers — often influential executive types — are bringing Macs into the office, whether IT supports them or not.

A new Forrester research report, which calls for CIOs and IT managers to end the prohibition and support Macs, includes a survey of 590 North American and European enterprise IT executives and decision-makers. Twenty-two percent of organizations expect the use of employee-owned Macs (not iPads) to increase in the next year. Only 3 percent expect this kind of Mac use to decline.

Yet 41 percent of these firms say that they do not allow access to email or the company network on Macs from either work or home. In short, they don’t support them.

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“That leaves a lot of employees to find their own ways to get around corporate prohibition,” writes Forrester analyst and report author David Johnson.

Forrester’s message for IT groups: Resisting Mac support is futile. Why? Because most Mac users are executives and top sales reps, what Forrester refers to as “power laptop users.” They are the most well-paid and productive people in the company, working an average of 45 hours a week and making 44 percent more money, according to Forrester. You want to keep them happy.

In addition, as long as Macs remain faster, more reliable, and less prone to viruses than a Windows PCs, executives will pay the extra money to buy them and use them at work.

Should Microsoft be losing sleep over Forrester’s survey numbers and conclusions? Yes. A few years ago, Macs had no place at a business other than in graphic design and video editing departments. Just three and a half years ago, Forrester told IT leaders to forget Macs and only focus on Windows.

To put things into perspective, Windows still owns 85 percent of the operating system market, according to Net Applications. The Mac OS is not going to take over the enterprise next week or next year. However, the perception among corporate heavy hitters these days, according to Forrester’s research, is that Windows PCs are saddled with management, backup, and security agents that slow down productivity. Power users want their laptops to boot in 10 seconds, not 10 minutes. They want uncluttered Macs with solid state drives that boot instantly.

Forrester also cites another (more shallow) reason why executives have turned to Macs: Their image as a luxury brand. For the same reason power brokers wear polished shoes and Armani suits to meetings, they also want their laptops to live up to high style standards. A low-cost Dell laptop with a plastic lid is not going to cut it.

“They don’t want to send a subliminal message that they aren’t prosperous enough to afford something nicer,” writes Johnson.

Apple has always been brilliant at targeting the affluent, image-conscious consumer. Yet the consumer use of Macs (and iPhones and iPads) has slowly trickled down from rich folks to the middle class.

That same movement is spilling over into the enterprise, and if it keeps up and IT lets corporate Mac users have their way, Microsoft will have big problems. The company will have to stop resting on its Windows 7 enterprise laurels and actually fight to keep its turf. Windows 8 suddenly becomes a lot more important.