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Even without an enterprise strategy, Apple quadruples share

Virtualization, 'tech populism' lead way to a 4.5% market share in business, says analyst

August 26, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Even without a strategy to push its computers into corporations, Apple Inc. has managed to nearly quadruple its share of the enterprise market in the last 19 months, an analyst said today.

Apple's Mac OS X currently accounts for 4.5% of the business operating system market, said Ben Gray, analyst at Forrester Research Inc. As recently as January 2007, Apple held just 1.2% of the enterprise market, according to data collected from Forrester clients who visited the research firm's Web site.

And that has all happened without Apple lifting much of a finger. "I haven't seen anything from Apple that seems to show that it's attack[ing] the enterprise market," said Gray.

Instead, he attributed Apple's gains to a pair of trends that support each other: client virtualization and what he calls "tech populism." The former, which relies on software from companies such as VMware Inc. and Parallels Inc., allows users of Intel-based Macs to run other operating systems, such as Windows Vista or XP, in virtual machines.

But tech populism, which Gray defined as the move by corporate IT departments to support a wider range of hardware and software, is even more important to the Mac's gradual climb. "Client virtualization will be very big, but tech populism will be even bigger," said Gray. "There's a mind-shift happening in IT, and we're starting to see that change. They're loosening up their policies on what's acceptable.

"In the end, they want their employees to be as productive as humanly possible, so they'll approve tools that people are more comfortable with -- the tools they may be running at home," Gray said. "They're saying, 'If we can find some way to manage and support these, we will.'"

That relaxed attitude ties in with the move toward virtualization on users' desktops, Gray argued, because when an enterprise-mandated operating system, such as Windows XP, can be deployed on a Mac, there are fewer reasons for IT to ban Apple's hardware.

"It's all just less about what end users' clients are running," said Gray.

Apple's gains appear to have come at the expense, slight though it may have been, of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows. From October 2007 to June 2008, the Mac's share of the enterprise market increased by 0.9 percentage points and Windows' overall share dropped by 0.7 percentage points, from 95.6% last fall to 94.9% this summer.

Gray expects that Apple will continue to post small, steady gains during the next 18 months, a period when he predicts PC refreshes and operating system migrations, which stalled last year and in the first half of this year, will pick up.



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