How things change. In 1997, Apple [AAPL] was on life support, now the company's devouring the tablet market, munching down on the smartphone market -- and its enterprise sales have surged by 66 percent. This is, indeed, the Year of the Mac.
[ABOVE: It isn't just consumers who are attracted by the 'dress to success' image of the Apple retail store.]
Up, up and away
Needham & Co. analyst, Charlie Wolf, says Apple's enterprise sales in the last quarter grew 66 percent, way ahead of the industry average growth of 4.5 percent in the enterprise. Mac sales are now estimated to account for 3 percent of total PC sales to business -- that small figure is the highest total Apple has seen for over a decade (since Q2 1997, in fact).
Mac shipments grew in the following categories, the analyst said:
- 94.7 percent in "very large business"
- 75.5 percent in "large businesses"
- 58.1 percent in "medium businesses"
- 90.4 percent in "small businesses."
This growth continues across other sectors: consumer, education and government Mac sales also grew in the period, the analyst observes.
Mac sales grew faster than PC sales in every region. In Asia, Mac shipments shot up 69.4 percent in contrast to 8.8 percent industry average. In Japan, you saw Mac sales climb 21.1 percent while PC shipments actually declined 16.1 percent, the analyst said.
The halo shinesWhat's driving the growth? Wolf writes, "Notwithstanding its premium prices compared with Windows PCs, the Mac should continue to grow faster than the PC market, propelled by the halo effects now emanating from the iPod, iPhone and iPad along with the international rollout of Apple Stores."
The cost of ownership is emerging to be another key factor. Square Group chief, Darren King, notes, "Total cost of ownership (TCO) for a Mac vs a comparable Wintel device over 3-4 years is actually lower!" Think about that.
July 2010 and ITIC Corp. in association with Sunbelt Software this published details of its third annual survey of enterprise technology managers. This identified "accelerating interest" in deploying Macs and iPhones within enterprise set-ups.
They liked the security and reliability of Apple's devices. "Eight out of 10 organizations said they are "more likely to allow more users to deploy Macs as their enterprise desktops" in 2010-2011, up from 68 percent in the 2009 survey," the researchers said.
This is no flash in the pan. The ever-growing popularity of Apple's mobile devices is igniting interest in the company's desktop and notebook platforms.
"Hundreds of private and public companies worldwide are supporting thousands of iPhones on their corporate networks," said Apple CFO, Peter Oppenheimer during a recent analyst meeting.
The iPhone/iPad/iPod halo which ignited Mac sales in the consumer market for 20 successive quarters is now being felt in business markets.
'Bring your own' platform
These markets are experiencing a new liberalism, with companies more willing than before to allow employees to bring in their own choice of device, and that's extending to platform agnosticism.
An Enterprise Desktop Alliance (EDA) survey of IT admins determined that the Mac will become the fastest-growing platform in the enterprise this year.
"The growing popularity of Apple products in the personal lives of IT managers is having a continued spill-over effect in the enterprise," said tech analyst, Laura DiDio.
Long-held anti-Apple prejudice within corporate IT departments cannot resist the top-down drive to support Apple products. Executives from the CEO down now want an iPad on their systems, forming a perfect storm of pro-Apple pressure. Where the iPad walks today, a Mac is more likely to walk tomorrow.
The result? Apple is growing while the PC industry slows -- the industry is expected to contract 3 percent this year, meanwhile Mac sales climbed 28 percent in the just gone quarter.
Apple massively out-performed the rest of the PC market in Western Europe last quarter and became on of the top five UK PC makers for the first time, kicking 'frenemy' Samsung out the frame.
Changing the game
"Over the past few years we've seen a major shift in the ways IT departments approach Apple devices," says Stephen Midgley, VP of Global Marketing at Absolute Software. Midgley means departments are now more willing to support Apple devices.
Apple is moving to meet its new markets, too. iOS 4.3.1 is better for enterprise Web services while the company also offers specialized support for small businesses called Joint Venture. The company has a new global director of enterprise security, David Rice, and has a deal with Unisys under which the latter sells Macs into government and enterprise markets.
Another improvement: iOS devices can now be managed centrally using remote management tools, including those recently acquired within the ubitexx take-over by BlackBerry maker, RIM. That strategy works both ways:
"There are other devices out there, employees are buying them and it is a real challenge for IT departments how to manage those," explains Anthony Payne, RIM's director of Platform Marketing.
"They don't want to have to say 'no' all the time. We think that by offering device management tools like these, we're offering the opportunity to have BlackBerry at the core, but to still be able to manage other devices."
Battle for the cloud: air wars
That's the next battleground. Cloud-based services, comprising remote management solutions for many devices, or cloud computing efforts to boost the utility of devices you've got. Google's Chrome vision of an always-on Internet is arguably too little, too early, as bandwidth remains a limitation to the great cloud dreams. Security matters too.
Microsoft will this week demonstrate its own selection of cloud computing alternatives at a Middle East computing event in Qatar.
These solutions are likely to achieve little media traction as Apple preps its own iTunes-led cloud solutions for announcement at WWDC next month.
PS: As for this growth being unsustainable: don't see it as a Windows defeat, but as industry rebalancing. We need heterogenous OS environments, not monocultural malware targets. Apple has sustained Mac sales growth for 20 consecutive quarters now -- it would be longer, but for a blip during the Intel transition of 2006. In other words, growing Apple marketshare isn't a blip, but a trend. Microsoft will be hard-pressed to maintain its current position, not just because Macs are becoming more acceptable, but also in the face of competing devices (such as iPads) and because cloud-based solutions mean high-end users can become device agnostic, while low-end deployments can be replaced with (Android, webOS and Apple OS) post-PC devices as the normal corporate buying cycle moves forward.
Got a story? Drop me a line via Twitter or in comments below and let me know. I'd like it if you chose to follow me on Twitter so I can let you know when these items are published here first on Computerworld.