Why Macs are still having trouble in the enterprise

Is the Mac dead...again?

trello web macbook pro

If you don’t live and breathe IT everyday, you may not realize what a headache it is to support the Mac. Some larger companies have figured out how to make it all work, and tools like those from JAMF certainly help. (You can buy a Mac from Apple these days and have it all configured for your company before you ever remove the shrink-wrap from the box.)

What’s still not working out?

There are still a lot of gotchas for users.

Recently, I’ve heard about end-users who have tried to use a Mac for a few simple, straightforward activities. One was related to Microsoft Teams. Even though Microsoft makes a client app for the Mac (and mobile platforms), there was a configuration problem related to Office 365 in the Chrome browser on a Mac. PC users had no trouble, but when Mac users tried to join a team, they hit a roadblock. It was a simple configuration on the back-end, but it was still frustrating and time-consuming.

This can set off a domino effect. If you can’t get on Teams, you can't start a live editing session in Word Online. (Or, at least you can’t start one easily without having to ask someone to share the document.) Is it a serious glitch? Not really. But if you have 10,000 employees and 1,000 of them use Macs, you are suddenly opening a pretty big can of worms.

I’ve used and liked the Mac for decades. I ran a graphics design team in the 90s and we all used Macs. I was an early adopter for Adobe Photoshop on the Mac long ago. I like some of the operating system features, including the one that shows you text messages from an iPhone and how you can use Siri on the desktop. I tend to carry an iPhone with me, although I’m also known to have an Android model or two in tow.

There are configuration issues when it comes to PCs as well. The problem I’ve been seeing lately, though, is that the squeaky wheel doesn’t get the grease. The PC is still dominant, so IT shops tend to test that platform and support it thoroughly. The Mac is still a second tier. Those companies that are testing Microsoft Teams didn’t think about their Mac users. It's been that way for 20 years or more.

There seems to be a game of catch-up, and the Mac is always the one behind. Even when there is a new laptop like the MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar, Microsoft takes a while to get around to making the new interface work with Word. You might think there’s no real difference these days, but the configuration issues keep coming up when there’s a new piece of software. First, the developer or enterprise makes sure it works on the PC, then they think about the Mac.

What does this really look like? With my Teams example, it’s a big blank screen. That’s also a problem. Somewhere, somehow, the backend itself isn’t even aware of what doesn’t work on a Mac. I haven’t even talked about the delay in making Mac versions of popular apps like Skype that first debut on the PC and then finally make their way to the Mac, or the headaches that come from former PC users who don’t understand basic OS features on a Mac like browsing a local drive or setting the desktop font size.

There’s no silver lining here, either. Until the Mac becomes more dominant, it won’t get supported as thoroughly. And, if it isn’t supported, it won’t grow in market share. So it’s a lose-lose. The chicken keeps cashing the egg, around and around.

When will it end? That is anyone's wild guess.

As always, if you disagree, feel free to post your comments on my Twitter feed.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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