Big Business Takes a [Small] Bite of the Apple

Yes, Apple products are making their way into corporate America. But the numbers are still relatively small.

On the surface, USAA looks like a prime example of how Apple is making new inroads into large enterprises. The financial services company has deployed more than 500 iPhones and 300 iPads, has about 200 Macintosh computers, and it's considering bringing in more Macs to displace some of its Windows desktops.

San Antonio-based USAA has also released a customer-facing app for iPhones and iPads, and it's considering developing others for internal use. "There seems to be a simmering demand for them, and some good business cases," says Mike Pansini, assistant vice president of IT infrastructure architecture at USAA.

But as is the case at many large companies, USAA's relationship with Apple is more measured than it might first appear.

The iPhones and iPads have been limited to the executive management group -- USAA has no plans at present to expand their use more broadly -- and its 200 Mac desktops and laptops, mostly used by developers, represent a small fraction of USAA's inventory of personal computers. The rest of its information workers -- some 23,000 people -- remain solidly on the Windows platform.

It's certainly true that Apple is making inroads into large enterprises. In a recent Computerworld survey of 367 IT managers, 73% of the respondents said they're providing or supporting Apple products in some way. But 25% still aren't supporting even one iPhone, Mac or iPad (and 2% didn't know if they were). The 143 largest enterprises in the survey -- those with more than 1,000 employees -- had the same ratio: 73% support an Apple product; 27% don't.

Although many enterprise IT organizations are accommodating user-owned or company-issued iPads and iPhones, they're providing carefully controlled access to a limited set of corporate IT resources, such as the Internet and corporate e-mail.

Apple is also making headway with corporate desktops and laptops: 55% of the survey respondents support at least one Mac, and 60% support MacBooks. But in most of those cases, the IT shops are supporting 100 or fewer Apple machines. And the Mac's penetration into large businesses is miniscule when compared with the number of Windows-based machines ordered each year.

Furthermore, IT managers say Apple isn't always supportive of their needs, and the Computerworld survey shows that many of the obstacles Macs have always faced in large organizations still exist, including the following:

• Mac versions of enterprise applications either don't exist or lag behind releases for Windows.

• There are few tools for managing Macs on a large scale and integrating them into a Windows-centric enterprise.

• The perception remains that Apple products are expensive.

• IT managers say that service and support options aren't up to enterprise standards.

• Apple doesn't provide a product road map to help IT managers make plans.

• Enterprises have limited opportunities to negotiate prices for Apple products.

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