Is Apple an enterprise-class vendor? That was the question that John Pescatore, vice president and research fellow at Gartner asked in his 19 November 2009 blog. He raised the point that unless Apple addresses enterprises' security requirements, the Mac will remain taboo among enterprises.
Fast forward to the last two years and two things working in Apple's favour. One is the growing power of the consumer as a driver of technology adoption in the enterprise. Gartner labelled this the consumerisation of IT. The second is Apple's declaration that it does understand the importance of security and has worked on securing its platform.
In the Gartner report, Market Share Analysis: Operating System Software, Worldwide, 2010 the analyst firm calls Apple Mac OS as the second fastest growing operating system.
Australia witnessed an increase in sales by 70 per cent over the first quarter in 2010 compared with the same period in the 2009 fiscal year. Australians bought just under 1.2 million units in the period — including corporate and consumer sales — which would place total Apple unit shipments in that quarter at about 84,000.
That said, the dominant desktop operating environment globally remains Microsoft Windows’ commanding lead of 78.6 per cent market share.
Apple's making of Mac OS as a ‘cool’ client computing OS has attracted a group of loyal customers on Mac devices and platforms. Apple's continuous innovations in mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, have prompted sales of other Apple devices and will continue to drive Mac sales.
With constant innovations, the first question any new technology poses in larger environments is how to roll it out effectively and efficiently. Most organisations have long-entrenched deployment processes for things such as operating systems, applications and software updates that are network-based that enables any one kind of device to be deployed across the entire enterprise, leaving no room for a variety of technologies.
Why the fuss? What's so important about Apple support in the enterprise? To say that nearly all business applications today are written for and developed specifically for the Windows operating environment is an understatement.
According to Forrester Research senior analyst, David K Johnson, one of the reasons employees are increasingly inclining to Macs over PCs is speed. Johnson says: “Many of today's corporate PCs are saddled with management, backup, and security agents that can bog down a PC. Employees want their PCs to boot in 10 seconds, not 10 minutes, and they don't want to have to get a cup of coffee while opening a 20 MB spreadsheet in Excel. They're drawn to uncluttered Macs — especially those with solid-state drives, which are more responsive and boot in seconds."
At the same time, with the consumerisation of IT, enterprises are slowly accepting Apple machines in the enterprise with the caveat that these Mac OS-based computers must comply with existing enterprise policies around security, manageability and software licensing policies.
Recognising the need for access to approved Windows applications, enterprises need to start using a configurable, policy compliant solution that easily fits into existing business processes. With bring your own device (BYOD) becoming a popular choice among Australian enterprises, companies are finding that, given a choice, 80 per cent of employees opt for Apple notebooks and laptops over standard corporate-issued hardware.
Apple, itself, provides a way to run Windows on a Mac using Apple Boot Camp. However the process requires rebooting the computer every time the user wants to switch between Mac applications and Windows programs – a ridiculously inefficient process. The rapid growth of working from home, BYOD, smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices and the adoption of Cloud-based technologies is increasingly pressurising employers to introduce more flexible measures within corporations.
To keep up with the BYOD trend, IT departments need to either explicitly include Apple devices in their standard operating environments or implement desktop virtualisation to make core applications device agnostic.
Ovum principal analyst, Roy Illsley, said desktop virtualisation can go a long way towards alleviating the pressure of PC maintenance costs, end-user flexibility and the proliferation of mobile devices for CIOs.
With desktop virtualisation business users can experience as much or as little Windows as they want. Multiple view modes make it possible for users to customise the level of integration between Mac and Windows without compromising performance.
Apple itself is still a long way away from meeting the stringent enterprise policies around software licensing and management. With no certainty as to when this becomes a reality, companies like Parallels, recognize the need of users to define what tools, including computers, they want to use at work, and are building solutions like the Parallels Desktop 7 for Mac Enterprise as a way to bridge the computing divide that exists between what users want and what IT, as caretaker of enterprise IT, must enforce.
Jan-Jaap Jager is vice-president and general manager for Parallels Asia Pacific