Apple breaks Microsoft's 'lock' on enterprise workers, argues analyst

One-in-five business workers now use at least one Apple device, often out of IT's sight

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But Gillett attributed the jump in Apple device usage among workers to the latter pair, not the iPhone.

"Before the iPhone, Apple in the enterprise was all about the Mac, but when the iPhone showed up [in 2007] it cracked the door open," said Gillett. "But it was the [refreshed] MacBook Air, combined with the iPad, that really created a whole reshift of how to look at business use of devices.

Those two events -- the debut of the original iPad, and the revamp and price drop of the MacBook Air -- both occurred in 2010.

Gillett cited the usability of the MacBook Air -- particularly its ability to instantly awaken from sleep -- its thin and light form factor, and oddly enough, its pricing as reasons for its success among enterprise workers.

"It's considered a premium device, but when other companies have tried to duplicate the hardware, they've had a hard time matching the MacBook Air's price," said Gillett.

IT decision makers surveyed by Forrester forecast a 52% increase in the number of Macs they will issue to workers in 2012 over the previous year. In 2011, nearly half -- 46% -- of the companies polled said they already offer employees a Mac as an option to the usual Windows PC.

While the Macs actually handed out to employees last year accounted for only 7% of all computers -- the same single-digit range as the Mac's worldwide usage share of 6.4% as measured last month by metrics company Net Applications -- Gillett was bullish on Mac OS X's future.

"You cannot underestimate the MacBook Air's impact," he said. "It's why Mac use has really surged among workers in the last couple of years."

But is saying that, "Windows' dominance is at an end" -- as Gillett stated in his report -- going too far?

He doesn't think so.

"I'm very confident that the lock Microsoft and Windows has had is gone," Gillett said.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more articles by Gregg Keizer.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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