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Mac Enterprise Adoption Grows

Windows still reigns in the enterprise, but new data shows Macs gaining ground.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3: 10 Tablets Paved Its Way
Microsoft Surface Pro 3: 10 Tablets Paved Its Way
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Windows has long ruled the enterprise computing scene, but Apple is making headway -- not only with mobile devices, but also with Macs. According to a new survey of IT professionals, three out of five businesses support Apple computers. Moreover, nearly all respondents said they expect more Apple products to be used at work over the next three years. But Mac fans shouldn't get too excited; other factors suggest Windows still has a stranglehold on enterprise PCs.

Conducted in April of this year, the survey included 309 IT professionals. It was commissioned by JAMF Software, an Apple-focused IT management vendor, and conducted by Dimensional Data. The survey found that over 90% of businesses use Apple products, with 91% supporting iPhones, 89% supporting iPads and 60% supporting Macs.

[Does Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 beat Apple's MacBooks? Read Microsoft Surface Pro 3: My First 2 Weeks.]

The figures represent an explosion of Apple devices in the workplace. JAMF's report states that in 2011, most companies said Apple products made up less than 10% of their employees' devices. In the new survey, the reverse was true: 68% of respondents reported that Apple products comprise more than 10% of employee machines. Fully 35% stated that at least 25% of employee devices are Apple products.

Source: JAMF Software
Source: JAMF Software

Clearly, iPad and iPhones are responsible for much of this growth. But the Mac figures are eye-catching too. It's well established that iPads and iPhones have become the mobile devices of choice for many businesses. Traditional computers are a different story; in the enterprise, Windows PCs have traditionally outnumbered Macs by more than ten to one.

So is JAMF's new data proof that Mac adoption is growing in the enterprise? Yes -- but with qualifications.

Apple's advocates, including CEO Tim Cook, often characterize iPhones as a gateway to the company's other products, including Macs. There's some truth to this. In the enterprise, the trend has manifested in BYOD programs. Once IT embraced employee preference by supporting iPhones and iPads, there was no going back, which led to support for more of employees' favorite devices, including Macs.

JAMF's report reinforces that employee preference drives Mac adoption; according to the survey, 78% of companies support Apple products for this reason, making preference far and away the most widely cited factor. "Higher productivity" was the second most commonly cited reason for using Apple products, marked by some 35% of respondents.

In an interview, Forrester analyst David Johnson agreed that BYOD programs have ushered more Macs into the enterprise, although not in overwhelming numbers. He said companies have become more interested in Type 2 hypervisors that allow companies to run Windows programs on Apple machines.

Still, Macs aren't invading the enterprise so much as making incremental progress. Data from Web-tracking firm Net Applications, for instance, shows that so far this year, OS X has actually lost market share. Windows XP's retirement might have been an opportunity for Macs to gain share, but most business users seem to have gone with Windows 7.

According to Forrester's most recent survey data, Apple remains a small player among enterprise desktop users, with only 2% of the field. MacBooks fare better, accounting for 6% of all laptops. These numbers put JAMF's findings into a larger perspective -- but they don't mean Apple's PCs aren't growing in popularity. Forrester found that 8% of employees want their next work device to be a Mac, indicating that though Windows remains the enterprise PC champ, Apple's influence is expanding.

What do Uber, Bank of America, and Walgreens have to do with your mobile app strategy? Find out in the new Maximizing Mobility issue of InformationWeek Tech Digest.

Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio

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User Rank: Moderator
6/11/2014 | 10:16:27 PM
Re: Macs at work: need or preference?
This is the Survey Methodology:

In April 2014, corporate IT professionals were invited to participate in an online survey on the topic of Apple device adoption and management in the enterprise. A total of 309 individuals participated, including a variety of stakeholders such as IT executives, managers and front-line IT professionals from a range of company sizes and industry verticals."

Perhaps the people who declined to participate were less interested in "Apple device adoption and management" because they worked in companies that don't use Apple. 

Michael Endler
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
6/11/2014 | 3:57:49 PM
Re: Macs at work: need or preference?
It's a good question. Apple has a lot of devoted fans-- but it also has a lot of devoted detractors who consider Apple a marketing company that happens to make devices.

In terms of software titles, I think the Mac's advantage is pretty small, and confined to specific industries. A lot of media professionals prefer Mac, but I'm not sure it has much to do with Final Cut these days; it seems a lot of people still use Macs but have moved over to Adobe. Certainly, the number of companies who need OS X-exclusive software is dwarfed by the number of companies who need Windows software. That said, within those companies, not all employees are equally tethered to Windows, and among those who aren't, many might prefer a Mac.

I think there's something to Apple's software-hardware fusion. Maybe my experience isn't representative, but I've had lesser-specced Macs that outperformed newer, faster Windows machines. Whether you prefer OS X or Windows is more subjective and more dependent on the kind of work you do. But for knowledge workers and multi-taskers, some OS X features – such as Spaces – could make people more productive.

All that said, Macs are expensive. Based on the JAMF survey and a similar survey Parallels recent released, Macs also seem to be a management headache for a number of IT pros (though FWIW, when JAMF or Parallels points out that sort of data point, it's arguably intrinsically self-serving, since it points out a need for their products). Still, Tim Cook has been more ostentatious about enterprise-oriented features than Steve Jobs ever was, so maybe Apple will help to mitigate some of these headaches. Microsoft is starting to do its part, since its mobility suite can manage iOS devices in addition to Windows ones.
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
6/11/2014 | 3:52:07 PM
Re: Macs at work: need or preference?
Often that preference for Macs is born out of a desire to be more productive. If people are more productive with an operating system that makes them more comfortable, it's not just a preference but a decision that improves productivity. When I can problem solve an IT issue due to OS affinity, that's a support desk savings.

Also, Apple's software model has real advantages to businesses. An employer that buys an employee a Mac will provide that employee with access to all Mac App Store software registered under that employee's personal Apple ID while at work. In some cases, the device may pay for itself in software the business didn't have to license.
David F. Carr
David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
6/11/2014 | 2:52:26 PM
Macs at work: need or preference?
It would be interesting to know how many of the employees getting Macs get them out of a real need, related to the work they do and things Macs do better. I suspect some of this is just employers indulging valued employees who have a strong Mac preference. In which case, it's good news that more companies are doing well enough to carve out money to pay the Mac premium.
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