Opinion: Why 'no Macs' is no longer a defensible IT strategy

Supporting users' appetite for Apple is now a straightforward option

Once confined to marketing departments and media companies, the Mac is spilling over into a wider array of business environments, thanks to the confluence of a number of computing trends, not the least among them a rising tide of end-user affinity for the Apple experience.

Luckily for IT, many of those same trends are making it easier for tech departments to say yes to the Mac by facilitating IT's ability to provide enterprise-grade Mac management and support.

"We're seeing more requests outside of creative services to switch to Macs from PCs," notes David Plavin, operations manager for Mac systems engineering at the U.S. IT division of Publicis Groupe, a global advertising conglomerate. There are so many requests that Plavin now supports 2,500 Macs across the U.S. -- nearly a quarter of all Publicis' U.S. PCs.

And Plavin is less of an anomaly than you might think. Buoyed by increased interest in the consumer arena, Macs are cropping up in more and more organizations, in large part because end users are pushing for them.

According to NPD Research, Apple's share of the retail market had climbed to 14% as of February 2008. Gartner and IDC report that the Mac's share in the U.S. as of March 31 was 6.6%. Alongside that home-based shift from PC to Mac is a significant uptake for Apple among businesses, as Forrester estimates organizational Mac adoption tripled last year to 4.2%, mainly on the backs of enthusiasts seeking approval for Apple's silver boxes in small workgroups.

Perhaps a better barometer of the trend is the effect increased Mac sales are having at outsourcing firms, which have traditionally been reluctant to support the platform because of a perceived lack of a market in the past.

Centerbeam, a Windows management outsourcer for midsize businesses, is one outsourcer eyeing the possibility of extending its services to cover the Mac, says Karen Hayward, Centerbeam's executive vice president. Security firm Kapersky Labs has already created a Mac version of its antivirus software that's ready for release if Mac growth continues (and the Mac falls prey to more hackers). And Boingo Wireless, a Wi-Fi hot spot federator, is developing a Mac client to allow Mac users to tap into the Boingo network.

Couple this increasing attention with the falling away of another knock on the Mac -- price -- and you can see why even the federal government -- which has pockets of Mac users in a diverse set of agencies, including NASA, the U.S. Army, and the National Institute for Standards and Technology -- is prepping for increased use of Macs in business environments, having put together an official guide to implementing Mac security to conform to federal requirements.

After all, as Publicis' Plavin notes, Macs -- which cost the same as equivalently configured business-class PCs -- are cheaper to support because they are easier to support. And when it comes to diverting IT resources toward competitive advantage, doesn't ease of support sound compelling?

What has changed to make the Mac fit better

IT can embrace that Mac momentum, not just tolerate it, thanks to several shifts in computing that make the Mac a better enterprise fit than in the past -- first and foremost being a rising threat to Microsoft's other mainstay in the enterprise desktop environment, Internet Explorer.

the Firefox browser, which has risen in popularity to the point where it accounted for 16.8% of browser use on the Web as of December 2007, according to Net Applications, has broken IE's stranglehold on Internet app delivery, which IE had maintained through ActiveX controls. Because Microsoft never released a version of IE for Mac OS X, Macs were frozen out of ActiveX-based Web sites, making many software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings and enterprise-app Web clients off-limits to Mac users.

But to ensure operability on Firefox, developers had to configure their wares to support Java instead of or in addition to ActiveX -- with Mac gaining compatibility as a client at the same time.

WebEx is one of the more notorious examples of this switch. The popular webconferencing tool became fully Mac-compatible only last month, as new owner Cisco Systems Inc. decided to abandon an ActiveX-only deployment strategy and add both Java and Mac-client options. (Until then, ReadyTalk and Adobe Connect were two of the few Mac-friendly webconferencing tools, notes Peter Lincoln, IT director at temp-staff agency Aquent.)

1 2 3 4 Page 1
Page 1 of 4
7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon