Apple's other growing platform, the Mac

By Jonny Evans

The iPad has taken over the tablet business and the iPhone is among the top three biggest-selling smartphones worldwide, despite Google's Android competition, but Apple [AAPL] has another platform that's growing faster than any other and is at last seizing an unexpected place in enterprise markets, the Mac.


[ABOVE: Do the old divides still apply as Apple's Mac moves from the shadows of the niche into becoming a viable choice for new markets? c/o Dvice and Hunch blogs.]

Apple explores new worlds

The Mac has become a viable choice for enterprise users, agrees premium reseller, Square Group chief, Darren King. "We see lots of interest from enterprise customers looking to use Apple under employee choice schemes, as part of change management (to enhance the employee IT experience). They use iPads as external sales people aids, iPhones for mobile mail/custom apps. This is one of our focus areas at Square and one in which we see lots of growth potential."

[This story is from Computerworld's Apple Holic blog. Follow on Twitter or subscribe via RSS to make sure you don't miss a beat.]

Apple's iPhone and iPad have caused a sea change in the way corporates regard its platforms. Huge interest among consumer users means Apple's technology has been "consumerized", if you will.

"Apple is cool and many corporate staff use Mac  at home or at least have iPhones/iPads," King explains. There's other, more tangible benefits, "It's easy to use, easy to deploy, easy to update/manage, energy efficient and easy to support. Total cost of ownership (TCO) for a Mac vs a comparable Wintel device over 3-4 years is actually lower!" King claims.

Five years of above-average growth

Apple sold nearly 15 million iPads within just 9 months of 2010, inventing a category others had visualized, but never quite got right. Apple's iPhone has defined what a smartphone can be, and the majority of Fortune 500 firms are trialing Apple products right now.

When it comes to the Mac, Apple has enjoyed 20 consecutive quarters of higher than marketshare growth. Mac unit sales grew by 28 percent year-on-year in Q1 2011. The PC market contracted by 3 percent.

Good Technology recently confirmed iPhone 4 as the leading device activated by its US enterprise customers in Q1 2011, with iPad leading the tablet segment. That's why the value of the Apple brand recently eclipsed that of Google, reaching $153 billion.

Apple is no longer a niche player. Get over it.

Stephen Midgley, VP of Global Marketing at Absolute Software, said, "There’s no question that Apple continues to slowly expand its reach in the enterprise market. Their devices, though not originally designed for the workplace, only continue to gain popularity.  Based on these numbers, it’s clear that the BlackBerry no longer has the monopoly on enterprise devices."

Changewave's February 2011 Corporate IT Spending survey shows up to 45 percent of corporate buyers planned to purchase an Apple device.

"The overall corporate smart phone market has gone up significantly since 2007, and today RIM sells far more phones to the enterprise than it did back then -- but it’s overall percentage of the market has declined considerably," said Changewave research director, Paul Carton.


Apple does the business

This translates into sales success for Apple Macs. Needham's analyst, Charles Wolf, last year unravelled some June 2010 data.

His findings showed Mac shipments continue to outpace industry growth. Apple's PC platform saw growth in business as 49.8 percent at that time, three times higher than the market's 15.7 percent. In the period, Mac shipments in (US) government grew 200 percent, sixteen times faster than the market's 12.1 per cent.

Eager to engage and retain their key staff, enterprise users are increasingly offering employees the chance to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) to their corporate intranets, forcing IT staff to bite the bullet of anti-Apple traditionalism in order to offer support for Cupertino's products on their enterprise systems.

"In the next five years I think we’ll see a bigger shift to the consumerization of I.T., with more Bring Your Own Device (B.Y.O.D) policies coming into workplaces. As such, I don’t think you can specify the types of devices we’ll be using at home versus in the workplace. All of the popular platforms on the market today will only continue to increase their value propositions for both personal and enterprise use," says Midgley.

This is rendered even easier by solutions such as Citrix being made available for iOS systems and Windows emulation on the Mac via Boot Camp and others. This has helped transform the Mac into a full-fledged player in the PC replacement cycle.

Mac sales climbed 28 percent in the just gone quarter. IDC predicts the PC industry will contract 3 percent this year. Apple is growing while the PC industry slows.

"Apple is now the fourth or fifth largest PC manufacturer by revenue or units, depending on who's counting. More important, the Mac is now the most profitable PC line," writes Jean-Louis Gassée of Monday Note in the Guardian.


[Above: Mac sales growth. c/o Asymco]

When it comes to the Benjamin's, it's all about the Mac

So, what's in the way of continued success in the enterprise markets for Apple's platforms?

Security, reliable networking and, most frustratingly, resistance to change on behalf of IT department staff, who not only feel threatened by support for a new platform, but also feel threatened that individual users can easily support their own Macs.

"Lack of internal experience of managing Apple is a problem," agrees King, "There's a lack of reference sites. So far only IT companies like Google and Cisco have fully changed to Mac and these are in the US," he said, pointing out that many firms have some, "fear of not wanting to be the guinea pig." (Square is a UK reseller that will be offering US and international Apple-based enterprise services later this year).

The challenges may be real, but Apple is growing its Mac market share and growing it fast.

  • A recent Enterprise Desktop Alliance survey of IT admins predicts Apple's could become the fastest-growing platform in the enterprise this year.
  • In 2009 the Mac accounted for 3.3 percent of enterprise systems, in 2011 the platform is now expected to hit 5.2 percent of enterprise systems and 25 percent of new systems added to enterprise set-ups.

The scene is set for massive market expansion.

Apple's MobileMe product is set for a workover to finally become the system it should always have been, while the company continues on a mission to make all its platforms interoperate logically and usefully together. Add a dose of voice recognition and control and Apple's clear aim to introduce new product configurations to extend its reach across a wider industry and the trajectory should be clear.

We have new choices

The Post-PC world isn't a world that's devoid of PCs, but a world in which the PC you choose to purchase will be the most powerful and well-featured of those available in your price range.

With so many already using an Apple product, a Mac appears a better choice than ever. And perhaps a new PC isn't required -- think about it: Those less well-used PCs, netbooks and notebooks could perhaps be replaced with an iPad; those static underused office desktops could perhaps be replaced by data entry apps on an iPhone. We have new choices.

This moment of transition is realizing itself as a moment of great opportunity for Apple, and a moment of serious challenge for almost anyone else. Old leaders are watching as their industry virility fails and they find themselves replaced by more innovative new firms. For example, Asus and Samsung seem far more compelling players in the industry today than either Microsoft or Dell in this new chapter of industry evolution.

One more thing: A propos of this some might enjoy Adweek's latest report which looks at all 66 spots within Apple's four-year 'Get A Mac' ad campaign.

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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