The Mac: An Integration Challenge? Really?

Loraine Lawson

How long have we been pondering the question of Apple and the enterprise?


As Ann All recently pointed out, it's a popular technology question, even a perennial one, popping up every spring, like daffodils-or dandelions, depending on your perspective.


Take this CIO.com article, for instance. CIO.com picked up the results of a recent survey by the Enterprise Desktop Alliance, which found that two out of every three IT administrators at large organizations where Macs and PCs co-exist say they expect to see an increase in the number of Macs this year. The article discusses the integration challenges that would pose for IT administrators.


I suspect the Enterprise Desktop Alliance might be one reason this issue keeps popping up. The EDA defines itself as "a collaboration among enterprise-class software developers to deliver solutions that streamline the deployment, integration and management of the Mac in sophisticated Windows-managed IT environments."


The group formed in 2008, and since then - just in time for the spring plantings-the group runs a survey on Mac use in the enterprise. The results were actually more impressive last year, when 74 percent of enterprises with Macs said they planned to add more.


You know what would be a more telling statistic? To know how many organizations that currently do not allow Macs that intend to change their policy. IT Business Edge's Arthur Cole found such a survey in 2008, when the Information Technology Intelligence Corp. surveyed IT executives at some 700 companies around the globe and found that 68 percent planned to allow workers to deploy Macs within the following 12 months. Later that year, he also wrote about the formation of the EDA and the integration challenges of Macs. And as All pointed out this week, it's applications are certainly finding their way into the enterprise, particularly through mobiles.


It seems, however, that you can find always find a stat to support the view that Macs are on the rise - and, conversely, that they aren't. For instance, recently, my ITBE colleague Ainsley Jones pointed out Forrester research showing Mac and iPhone adoption by large businesses is only around 3.5 percent. That article also includes the ironic news that it might be IBM and Microsoft, rather than Apple, that finally help the Mac make it in the enterprise.


Interestingly, both the CIO.com article and the EDA press release quote Gartner on the Mac issue, but with different conclusions. "Apple's share in the PC market has been less than 1 percent in the last several years and has not changed," Gartner Research Director Mikako Kitagawa told CIO.com. Meanwhile, the press release includes this note, written by Gartner Research Director Michael Silver in the report, "Gartner Predicts 2010: PC End-User Issues":

As a greater percentage of enterprise applications become OS-neutral, the cost to support a more diverse hardware and OS mix will decrease, making Macs a more viable choice for a greater number of users who continue to demand them. Providers that sell enterprise-class Mac solutions and Mac services may see an increase in demand

So who can say how many Apples this year's crop of PCs and mobile devices will bring? IT Business Edge's Rob Enderle predicts it could be lots, when it comes down to mobile devices. But at this point, I have to wonder: Are Macs really still so different that they constitute an integration challenge, on par with the challenges of the cloud or integrating customer service and Web stores? Or would you classify Macs as a minor integration, something you have to do, but not that big of a deal, when you put on your big boy/girl pants?

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