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1/16/2013
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Why Apple Is IT's Arch Frenemy

Apple devices are supported in nine out of 10 companies, our research finds, but IT needs ways to manage them more efficiently and securely.

IT's Top Five Beefs

Apple is frequently criticized for putting design over function. "iMac connectors on the rear of [the] machine are designed/decided by anal retentive cretins," says one IT decision-maker in our survey. "This is an ergonomic flaw that reveals a preference for form over function." Ouch.

Another gripe: While, as our survey reflects, Apple is held up as a leading innovator, in reality it tends to refine existing ideas. Apple didn't invent the MP3 music player, the smartphone or the tablet computer. But it made the "breakthrough device" that took these products from niche to mass market, the Newton notwithstanding.

Success makes its own argument. And don't discount the possibility that more enterprise acceptance could lead Apple to actually start listening to CIOs and making choices that benefit enterprise IT. Apple didn't invent the USB port, but it adopted it as a universal interface, without including any legacy interfaces on the original iMac, at a time when relatively few PCs used USB -- helping jump-start widespread adoption.

Apple's record of "inflection point" success means, at the very least, it's worth closer attention from IT management. Whether we're talking about delivering digital music, tying an online store to a brick-and-mortar retail presence, developing a unibody laptop chassis, driving ubiquitous Wi-Fi or, of course, innovating smartphones and tablets, Apple has either been impossibly lucky or has managed to repeatedly anticipate and advance transformational technology trends.

Another beef IT has with Apple is with its inadequate enterprise support. Even the top-tier support level, AppleCare OS Support Alliance, is a business hours, next-business-day-response program for anything other than Priority 1 (system or service down) issues. Apple also has programs and a registry in place for training and certification, as well as AppleCare Professional Support and Apple Service Programs that provide businesses support, though again, not always with 24/7 availability, and they don't seem to be a major priority for the company.

Not surprisingly, only 32% of the IT decision-maker and 29% of the end user respondents to our survey say Apple is making an effort to improve enterprise support, and 39% of decision-makers and 27% of end-users say no such effort is under way.

Another potentially expensive pain point for organizations is Mac repairs and upgrades. Apple would do more business with IT organizations if it made schematics and repair information more accessible, says Christopher Grande, president of OnSight Services, an IT consultancy. "They should change to standard screws and closures to make repairing an out-of-warranty item possible for the power user types," Grande says. "It would add great value and show that they care how long their products remain in the marketplace. When I see a 20-year-old Volvo or a 10-year-old Dell, that's a tremendous selling point."

Screws aside, not all Macs have inaccessible designs. The latest Mac Pro, for instance, has a fantastic case design that makes upgrading components a breeze. The Mac Mini lets customers upgrade to 16 GB (8 GB times two slots) of RAM and add a second hard drive or SSD.

But for the most part, Apple appears to be extending the sealed-unit approach it takes with its phones and tablets to its new Macs, putting a premium on cutting-edge design over upgradability. The ultrathin cross section of the latest iMac desktop is a case in point. In the most recent refresh of the line (late 2012), even the RAM in the smaller of the two units (the 21.5-inch version) is almost inaccessible. The larger (27-inch) model still has easily accessible RAM.

Apple's recent laptops -- the MacBook Air and the newest MacBook Pros -- have a sealed-unit design. Apple now solders the RAM to the motherboard and has made key components such as the hard drive or SSD, battery and screen much less accessible.

Repair site iFixit gave the new 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro its lowest possible rating, one out of 10 points, for upgradability and access based on factors such as nonstandard pentalobe screws, soldered-in RAM, proprietary flash memory SSD, glued-in battery modules and a fused display assembly. At least one third-party vendor has released MacBook Pro-compatible SSD modules for the Retina MacBook Pro, so there's the possibility of boosting internal storage. But in general, post-purchase upgrades for new Apple devices are limited.

If your desktops and laptops are on a two- to three-year replacement life cycle, Apple's approach might be a non-issue, but if you replace your hardware less frequently, consider either maxing out the devices at the time of purchase or choosing another option.

And that brings us to what might just infuriate IT pros the most: While Apple clearly is an influential innovator, it's a relatively inflexible one, which makes dealing with the company and its products, frankly, risky.

Apple has thrived on creating disruptive products and services -- to paraphrase a famous ad campaign, by thinking (and acting) differently. What that really means is that it's fond of changing the rules and upsetting the board rather than playing within established markets and systems. One example is Apple's arm-twisting of AT&T and other telecom carriers to change their business models to accommodate the iPhone. Another example is the heavily curated walled-garden App Store model for iOS apps.

Apple thrives when it can step in as the first mover, or at least the first successful mover, and deliver premium products perceived as different and better. It hasn't done well long term in markets for commoditized products and during periods when it hasn't been able to make its distinctive characteristics clear.

In short, Apple courts relentless change, not the slow, incremental change more in tune with a corporate environment.

CIOs place a premium on consistency and reliability. High availability and stability are much more important in corporate tech environments than new features or even usability.

Enterprise IT is about managing chaos and eliminating surprise -- reliability over delighting end users. This is not to say Apple products aren't reliable; they are. It's a more fundamental difference. Whereas Apple is intensely focused on the individual user experience, enterprise IT, by nature, is focused at the aggregate, collective level.

What's Next?

Based on our survey results, IT has little choice but to gamely move ahead with Apple products. While only 11% of IT decision-maker respondents say their companies spend more than 20% of their IT budgets on Apple products and only 23% spend more than 10%, that number may creep up. Asked to look ahead 18 months, 16% predict that their companies will spend more than 20% of their IT budgets on Apple gear, and 31% estimate they will spend more than 10%. The possibility that nearly one-third of companies would even consider spending more than 10% of their IT budgets on Apple products would have been considered ludicrous even a few years ago.

CIOs must be deliberate and realistic about when and how they support Macs and iOS devices. Apple, for its part, can take advantage of its momentum in the consumer market to build strong ties with IT pros by investing in enterprise-class functionality and services. If it doesn't, there may well be a "reverse halo effect," where management difficulties with and operational failures of its products in the workplace tarnish the brand. Does Apple care? We'll see.

Continue to the sidebars:
Apple Doesn’t Rule The School,
Close The BYOD Security Hole

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bluscarab
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bluscarab,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/15/2013 | 11:46:57 PM
re: Why Apple Is IT's Arch Frenemy
8 macs huh? We run a global enterprise with over 90,000 pc's in 13 different languages whose various duties are anything from connecting point-of-sales to large inventory systems to providing logistics for armed forces around the world and many international air traffic control towers. There is no way you can sanely compare 8 macs to a global operation that runs the world's economies of scale.

But I'd like to point out the most important point that the author missed: Apple makes abandonware...

...and this is fatal to most enterprises - even for those with only 8 users.
bluscarab
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bluscarab,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/15/2013 | 11:37:33 PM
re: Why Apple Is IT's Arch Frenemy
Thats not the point the author was trying to make. The point is that if Apple ever...EVER tries to twist my enterprise's global arms...the deal's off baby. I never do business with tyrants - only with optimists and people that have a "can-do" attitude. Apple devices are the epitomy of "cannot-do".
TreeInMyCube
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TreeInMyCube,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/5/2013 | 8:53:09 PM
re: Why Apple Is IT's Arch Frenemy
You're missing a key point -- scale. I believe that many small or medium sized businesses could replicate the experience of your small business story. But this article (note the recent large client, for whom the author consulted) is aimed at large businesses, which have data centers and hundreds or thousands of desktops/laptops. If the scalability of Apple's management tools is less than satisfactory, that will matter a lot more to large enterprises than a small enterprise "with about 8 Macs."
Having said that, I will agree that many IT pros in large enterprises have less firsthand experience with MacOS systems. Both my daughters elected to take Macs to college, but my experience with their systems is secondhand. More to the point, my experience with 2 Macs at home doesn't inform my decisions/recommendations concerning 1000s of systems that my colleagues are supporting at work.
jmmxx
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jmmxx,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/5/2013 | 1:20:11 PM
re: Why Apple Is IT's Arch Frenemy
One of the problems here is that many IT people are dead set against Apple products. This frequently goes to fanatical extreme as you still hear some people referring to Macs as "toys."

Let's face it, these people (or their companies) have 10s of thousands of dollars invested in MS training. They hear a constant barrage of anti-Apple propaganda. Therefore, any perceived problem or issue, is exaggerated. This is normal human behavior.

In the end, IT has no real interest in long term costs and harp incessantly on the buy-in costs. Almost all studies on the topic have shown that Mac Total Cost of Ownership is a fraction of that of Windows PCs. This is mainly because the Mac support and training costs are a fraction that of MS PCs. This is pretty much a fact that IT personnel ignore.

For example, I know a small business with about 8 Macs. Since they set up 15 years ago, aside from some FileMaker Pro database support, they have not had to hire a professional IT person once! One of the workers handles OS and software upgrades. He can do this without any significant adjustment to his normal work.

Additionally, the lifetime of Macs and their resale value are way above that of most PCs.

These, however, are not issues that most IT pros care to discuss.
jmmxx
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jmmxx,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/5/2013 | 1:08:31 PM
re: Why Apple Is IT's Arch Frenemy
"One example is Apple's arm-twisting of AT&T and other telecom carriers to change their business models to accommodate the iPhone."

This, however, has been a benefit for the USERS. The iPhone remains the ONLY OS that never has any carrier-installed crapware.
dgoodwin
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dgoodwin,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/24/2013 | 3:37:21 PM
re: Why Apple Is IT's Arch Frenemy
Let me suggest that the entire concept of centralized management is under assault by BYOD and we could be in the early stages of a shift to a new paradigm.
jjohnson551
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jjohnson551,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/22/2013 | 9:40:16 PM
re: Why Apple Is IT's Arch Frenemy
It isn't that they aren't nice products and have nice user software for them. It is the lack of CENTRAL management for thousands of devices. With PC's we can remotely install software, configure the anti-virus, lock down file shares, configure the browser setting, install security certificates, etc. With Mac's it is configure your Mac, walk over to next Mac start over.
golf25radioman
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golf25radioman,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/22/2013 | 7:54:48 PM
re: Why Apple Is IT's Arch Frenemy
Is it really Apple products' susceptibility to security issues or IT managers not wanting to work their current (most likely Windows based) systems to work with them? My experience with Apple products (hardware/software) is that third party security for them is quite robust and always current to any threats. As to Apple's OS security, sometimes vulnerability is from third party integration - i.e. the Java (Sun) current issue. And on the mobile devices, Apple chose not to allow Flash content for that reason, frequent vulnerabilities and their slow response to patches. Would these IT managers be waiting for the Surface Pro to become real and easier to integrate into their existing systems? Just a few things that came to my mind as I read the story.
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