updated 06:46 pm EDT, Tue March 25, 2014
Long time coming, but BYOD movement paying dividends to Apple
Another survey of Macs in the workplace has both reinforced older studies as well as added surprising news about the growing acceptance of Macs in the workplace -- long thought to be the unassailable domain of Windows PCs. Virtualization software maker Parallels has polled more than 200 IT chiefs in its latest study, and found that nearly half -- 45 percent -- of the companies surveyed now offer their employees the option of using a Mac at work, and find the platform "more reliable" for both Mac and Windows application use.
It should be noted that the survey, carried out by Redshift Research, invited only companies that predominately used Windows, but were either considering letting employees use Macs as desired or already offered the option. Some 77 percent of the companies polled said that Macs are more reliable than Windows machines, with 65 percent saying they are easier to support and that offering Macs would likely help attract employees.
This portion of the study reinforced findings from early "Macs in the workplace" studies, which have generally found higher return on investment (ROI), lower "total cost of ownership" (TCO), greater reliability and more productivity from workers using them. While the majority of companies agreed that Macs are more reliable and easier to support, 70 percent of the companies that do not yet offer Macs in their workplaces say that the factors holding them back are a lack of expertise in supporting the platform, and the mistaken perception that Macs can't run Windows applications (likely the motivating factor behind Parallels' commissioning of the study).
Again among those businesses polled that don't offer Macs, about half (53 percent) also believed there was a lack of enterprise-level management tools for the platform (again, in most cases a misconception). However, among the businesses that aren't yet incorporating Macs, a surprising 95 percent of them said they would consider doing so if they were sure of a single central management system that could handle the company's Macs and PCs equally. The high rate of open-mindedness on the subject may give Apple (and virtualization and enterprise solution companies like Parallels) some motivation to educate enterprise buyers on existing management options, though there are clearly years of myth and misconception to get past in doing so.
"This survey reinforces what we already knew: Macs are coming into the enterprise but often are supported only reluctantly and not managed efficiently," said Parallels President Jack Zubarev, in a statement. Parallels has begun focusing on offering single-point management solutions for mixed Mac and PC networks, and Zubarev mentioned both the Enterprise Edition of Parallels Desktop for Mac and the company's Mac management plug-in for Microsoft SCCM (System Center Configuration Manager) as examples of ways companies could easily overcome any perceived barriers to Mac integration.
Since Tim Cook's ascension to CEO of Apple, the company has focused on making management tools for Mac and iOS devices inexpensive while gradually adding additional features and compatibility with other systems. Analyst have predicted that by next year, Apple products could account for 11 percent of global enterprise IT share, a "halo effect" brought on by increased use of iOS devices in the workplace, itself thanks to an IT reform movement that began with "Bring Your Own Device" policies -- where IT departments discovered that many employees preferred Macs and iOS devices, and could use them more productively.
Apple too has been beefing up the remote management and policy enforcement capabilities of its own tools, though largely aimed at OS X and iOS device management while increasing support for standards such as Exchange servers, SMC network compatibility and Active Directory. Among the recent changes is a new device enrollment program and revamped Profile Manager in OS X Mavericks Server, improvements in Apple Remote Desktop, improvements in iOS deployment tool Configurator and enterprise-friendly changes to volume hardware and software purchasing systems.