Will Apple Silicon slow enterprise Mac deployment?

Apple must prove a business case to maintain enterprise deployment of Macs with Apple Silicon.

Apple’s decision to migrate Macs to Apple Silicon opens up interesting opportunities for enterprise IT but also poses some challenges, not least of which is further balkanization unless the company ensures its products play nice with others.

The good, the bad and the FUD-ly

The good side of the move to Apple Silicon on enterprise Macs is better interoperability with those growing fleets of iPhones and iPads and the opportunity for new innovation.

These Macs will have on-chip machine intelligence and a growing set of OS-based APIs that developers can use to create interesting new enterprise applications. In addition, security should be as solid as on any other iOS product, including things like Face and Touch ID on the Macs. This will make it much easier to manage and control user access to critical enterprise services, for example.

One good illustration of how iOS is already in use across the IoT-based enterprise: the forthcoming Swift Heroes event aimed at iOS developers building Bluetooth LE applications for use across IoT and Industry 4.0.

The problem is that migrating the entire platform to Apple Silicon means some businesses, particularly those with heterogenous deployments, will need to be reassured the new Macs work well with other solutions already in play – including any smart manufacturing or IoT devices they may rely on.

Smart machines are complicated

The smart machines currently deployed across enterprise environments often use processors from a range of vendors, and rely on different networking technologies. That’s very much reflected in the IoT-at-home markets, which now sees Apple, Zigbee and others working together in an attempt to create a unifying standard for smart homes.

Smart factories need something similar. But until it is created, enterprises must ensure Apple’s solutions continue to work with such systems – after all, digital transformation relies on interoperability.

When it comes to using Macs in business, the current status is positive because they use Intel processors. Yet, in order to support the move to Apple Silicon in Macs, businesses must become more confident in them.

That’s certainly part of what Addigy CEO, Jason Dettbarn, thinks. He told me: “With Mac being the productive tool of high growth organizations, many high-security organizations will have to put an all-in-faith of the closed-design ARM chips Apple fabricates.”

Can Apple build consent?

While it’s true that Intel seems to have been unable to match Apple’s road map for chip development, which prompted the move to Apple Silicon, the fact remains that chips from the company power millions of devices, particularly smart machines.

One challenge – at least at this stage – is that enterprise users don’t yet know how well Apple Silicon systems will work in these mixed platform environments. That may not be a big problem in the long-term: iOS devices already in enterprise use work quite well with others, particularly with cloud-based services. Apple also deliberately told us it is working with emulation vendors such as Parallels to enable support for other operating systems on Apple Silicon.

Finally, Apple is already working with vendors in the IoT space (GE, SAP, IBM, for example) to address such challenges in a more client-focused and personalized way than it can alone. That many of the latter partnerships originated on iOS suggests that many such conundrums may already have been resolved.

However, until Apple's Apple Silicon Macs have seen real-world deployment in the enterprise, Apple will have to work hard in order to convince business users that they can rely on them as good, interoperable systems, rather than risk the platform becoming balkanized all over again.

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Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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