What's holding back Apple in the enterprise?
Apple's desktop market share has been inching up for some time and, if analyst stats are right, now hovers around the eight per cent mark.
But the business world remains immune to the pull of Apple's hardware, with few - if any - workers in most companies using anything other than the classic Wintel combination, in spite of demand for alternative desktop options from staff.
It's a situation that looks unlikely to change, despite the launch of a new Mac OS: a recent poll of the silicon.com CIO Jury found none of the IT chiefs surveyed said the release of Snow Leopard will prompt their business to adopt Apple desktops.
For many members of the CIO Jury, it's not a judgment on the performance of the OS itself but rather a recognition of the prohibitive costs involved in such a change.
Ibukun Adebayo, IT director of social care organisation Turning Point, told silicon.com that the upfront costs, as well as the productivity hit a move would entail, serve as a deterrent to adopting Macs.
Adebayo said: "Before recommending such a radical change for close to 2,000 in-house IT customers, I'd need to consider not only the costs of the software, hardware, and training; but also the intangible costs of inevitable downtime, stakeholder disgruntlement, and more calls to my service desk team whilst staff come to grips with a system that is reportedly 'quite easy' to use according to the many Mac enthusiasts out there, but probably more daunting a prospect to the millions who have grown up with a PC and Windows products all their life."
If IT departments were reluctant to move to Mac OS due to its associated costs before the downturn hit, their recession-squeezed tech budgets have made sure that any big hardware or software shifts are now even less likely.
Alastair Behenna, CIO at recruitment company Harvey Nash, said: "Unfortunately, the issue wouldn't be one of acceptance by IT but merely a reflection of the cost of implementation and the 'shock and awe' impact on my board when I proposed the capital case at this point in the downturn."
However, the spectre of Mac adoption could rise again once the downturn is over, according to Behenna.
"Saying that, I'm still prepared to give it a go in the fullness of time as the benefits are potentially significant in a business like ours," he said.
For others, however, the sheer size of the PC estate makes a move an uphill struggle whatever the economic conditions.
"The power of Apple's 64-bit processing is very attractive," Spire Healthcare IM&T director Marc O'Brien said. "However, the installed base of 4,500 PCs means that no wholesale change...
...is likely in my organisation."
And it seems the perception that Macs are just for design and publishing continues to hold it back from more mainstream enterprise adoption.
"Apple has for a long time been associated with producing the best OS system so long as you're a creative artist or designer. Until it shakes off that image, very few IT heads are likely to carry out a wholesale replacement of their Windows XP/Vista operating systems to the Snow Leopard OS," Turning Point's Adebayo said.
While CIOs may be content to keep Macs in the departments they've always occupied, end users have other ideas, gradually introducing Apple machines into enterprises by the back door.
Writing last month for silicon.com, Michael Silver, research VP and distinguished analyst at Gartner, revealed that average workers are bringing Macs into their companies themselves.
"Macs are appearing in more and more organisations. But this does not signal a major change in organisations' buying habits. In fact, while Apple is still popular in some niches in business, the IT department does not purchase or sanction many of the Macs that are gaining use in businesses. Instead, end users or businesses are buying them themselves," he said.
It's a phenomenon that's only set to snowball - but IT managers need not fear: Snow Leopard is the most enterprise-friendly OS that Apple has produced.
"Apple has made each new release of Mac OS X easier to integrate with corporate resources. With the arrival of Snow Leopard, Apple added perhaps the most important feature users need to participate on their corporate network - native support for Microsoft Exchange email to mail, calendar, and address book. This will likely lead to an increase in the number of Macs IT managers will find on their networks," said Silver.
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