Mavericks: The end of Macs in the enterprise?

Mavericks: The end of Macs in the enterprise?

Summary: Macs have never been that popular in business. But if Apple is indeed no longer supporting security updates for older Mac OS X versions, Macs won't have any place left in the enterprise office.


[UPDATE: An Apple spokesperson told ZDNet the company has not changed its update policy but said some older OS X versions go unpatched for architectural reasons. Apple declined to respond to a request for more details about their security update policy or for when the most recently disclosed vulnerabilities would be patched in Mountain Lion.]

Macs have never been that popular in the enterprise office. Sure, people love their MacBook Airs and their MacBook Pros, but CIOs usually frown at their price-tags. Still, the shiny Macs laptops have induced some big businesses, including ZDNet's own parent company CBS Interactive, to buy these high-end laptops and, thanks to the Adobe Creative Suite/Creative Cloud, publishing, graphics design, and Web design departments all still use and love their Macs. Well, they do for now. They may not tomorrow because of Apple's lack of security updates for older versions of Mac OS X.

Apple's new Mac OS X, Mavericks, looks great, but can you trust it with your enterprise apps?

ZDNet Larry Seltzer's found that while Apple announced that Mac OS X 10.9, Mavericks fixed numerous security bugs Apple did not issue these same security fixes for Mountain Lion or other older versions. So far, Apple, as is its wont, hasn't said that they're going to release any either.

Apple's OS X Mavericks hands-on, in pictures

Apple used to release security fixes for their older operating system versions. At the least, they'd release them for the version that came before their newest one. It doesn't look they are this time.

We all know what happens when a company reveals security holes don't we? Yes, that's right. We get zero day attacks: Lots and lots of zero day attacks. It's like giving every junior-high hacker in the world a free treasure map.

What's that? The Mac has no security problems? Please, ever hear of the Flashback Trojan? Icefog? Backdoor:OSX/KitM.A? You would have if you'd been paying attention to Apple security. They're all successful Mac malware programs.

No, Macs don't have the dozens of new malware attackers every month that Windows PCs have... yet. But then, we never had a major, widely used Mac OS without the latest security fixes either.

So, if you're running Mountain Lion, you should run, not walk, to your Mac and download Mavericks today. That's no real hardship right? I mean Mavericks is free, so other than the couple of hours it takes to download the multi-Gigabyte update and then install it, updating your operating system isn't going to hurt you is it? Wrong!

Yes, Mavericks looks pretty darn good and the upgrade is, outside of the time it takes, as smooth as silk. I've installed it and I like it.

So, what's the problem? Well, I'll tell you what the problem is. If I'm a CIO, I'm being forced by security concerns to upgrade my users' Macs to an untested operating system. Maybe my company's programs will work with it, maybe they won't. I don't know.

As a CIO all I really know is that Apple is forcing me to choose between opening my Mac desktops to attacks or taking a chance that everyone in my office is going to come screaming to my door with complaints about broken programs. In fact, some of you may already be facing the latter problem since it's been confirmed that if your company uses Google Gmail Internet message access protocol (IMAP) for corporate e-mail you're very likely to run into a show-stopping bug with the Mavericks mail client. Whoops! This is the kind of dilemma that causes CIOs to lose their hair.

This is not a headache any IT manager ever wants to face. So, if Apple really is taking a leaf from their iOS book and no longer supporting their older versions, the long-term answer is to simply start walking away from Apple no matter how pretty their computers are.

Microsoft may really, really want you to move to Windows 8.1, but they're still supporting Windows XP. Linux desktop distributions are constantly delivering security upgrades. Only Apple demands that you either upgrade your PCs to a major unproven upgrade or leave yourself open to attackers. No IT department ever wants to face a choice like this.

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Topics: Enterprise Software, Apple, Operating Systems, PCs, IT Policies

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  • FWIW

    FWIW, Apple has pretty much already given up on the enterprise. That happened back when they killed Xserve. That doesn't mean it's not useful for smaller businesses, though.
    • This issue affects all business users, not only enterprise

      As a guess, I imagine there are lots of video editing and graphics companies using Macs.

      They also have lots of software, and are most likely conservative when it comes to upgrading. It's wise to hold back and wait for others to test a new OS first. They won't want to be forced into immediate upgrades in case it breaks some software they're using.

      Windows has turned bad since they glued their Metro (phone) interface onto a desktop machine where it doesn't work. Maybe the answer is for everyone to switch to Linux for desktop computers.
      • Why should they switch? Windows 7 will be supported for quite some time.

        Security patches are not forcing anyone to move away from Windows 7.
        • Indeed, why should Mac users switch?

          I think we're moving into an age where OSes are going to update on you, whether one likes it or not. Phones have already gone that way... you get left abandoned once the new one comes out.

          A lot of the design staff will not work on Windows. They literally won't take the job, and as a result, businesses that intend to do design and media stuff have to have them. it is just something that has to be gotten over.
          • Re: Indeed, why should Mac users switch?

            For the general consumer we may get to a point where OS's upgrade on you automatically (although I am very skeptical about this as well because of lost revenue), however in the enterprise that will never be the case. It would be careless and too much of a risk to the business to simply trust any upgrade that comes out without testing, validating compatibility with their business software/apps, validating compatibility with their support infrastructure, etc. Technology will continue to change and evolve, but one thing you can safely bet on not changing is the Enterprise simply allowing automatic upgrades of their OS's and business software in general.
          • We control updates in XP.

            Our computer engineer will apply the approved updates via SMS for users without admin rights. We don't allow our users to install anything as we on allow accounts with admin rights to install software. This helps because our payroll software is version specific with the Java.
          • The Great Apple Hype Is Over...

            ... and as we all know Apple has no chance to deliver cheap device for growing markets.
          • Apparently not

            if authors like Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols resort to words like "shiny" and "pretty" to describe Macintosh computers, and betraying a rather extreme negative bias. However, as lots of us have observed in ZDNet pieces, their true focus is on generating hits/clicks (to maximize perceived value to advertisers) rather than objective, value-added analysis or reporting. So, if the Great Apple Hype were really over, there wouldn't be such a predictable, knee-jerk reaction with nonsense comments like "Apple has no chance to deliver cheap device" when it has never, ever been Apple's business model to compete at the low end. These are the short-sighted folks that absolutely ridiculed Apple when it introduced the iPad--and it has already sold 170 million of them. The reality is that anyone should buy the device and ecosystem that suits their needs and budget--and not feel compelled to trash anyone else's choices. Of course, that assumes a level of maturity not always found here.
          • well said!

            well said!!
          • We just switched.

            We had Xserve, running on fiber, with 100% mac hardware. It worked for about 6 months, then It failed, Apple techs could not fix it. We moved to Windows 7, on Custom built rigs. The remaining macpro's are used as file servers.
          • Neutral_density

            A lesson to be learned. That never happen with UNIX platforms. Macs and PCs are at best as intelligent terminals period or for the home. Macs always have had compatibility issues also and that is where PC take the lead along with the cheaper software an more choices.
          • Your Mileage May Vary

            I've been running an xserve as a small intranet server with mysql & Apache running 10.2.8 since 2004. Its been rock solid. I can count the number of restarts in those nine years on one hand. Most are for major power disruptions.
          • Mac / PC issues (again)

            I run a very graphics intensive business, all Photoshop CC all day, most files are at least 250 Mbytes.
            Whenever we take on a new employee they are given the choice of Mac or PC. They pretty much all start with the Mac and then within a month they are on PC's running Windows 8.
            Windows is simply more reliable both in PShop and, importantly, on the network where we have 5 Tbytes of PSD files on-line.
          • Hardware

            I have seen that happen too. Hardware support makes a huge difference. I have seen thunderbolt devices crash on eject way to many times while usb 3 works flawless.
          • Try running...

            Auto update to install the Thunderbolt firmware update which addresses this issue.
          • Shhhh.....! The "Mac-zombies" might get angry! :D

            I build my on custom machines (something that you can't really do when it comes to Apple), and have been running Adobe programs since before they were actually Adobe! (Until they bought out a company called Aldus, they were just another 2nd place wannabe!) I've never had a problem with any of their offerings! You DO however have to build a big enough machine to run the programs smoothly!
            It was a while back now, but I had a friend that lived, ate and breathed Apple come visit me! I can't remember what I was working on, but he suddenly said "I hate you"! I said "what'd I do?" To which he replied "I have the same version of 'Photoshop' as you and your's works better 'n I hate you"!
            Reality sometimes is distasteful!
          • Really?

            Most here start with a PC and end up on a Mac, as they find it a lot more stable.
          • stable?

            Try to use better hardware vendor to get stable. The price will be still lower then apple.
          • Yea, right...

            That's pure bull, and you know it. I support Mac's for a living, and never once had a client ask, how do I transfer my files from my Mac to my new Window's machine. You sir are a troll and a liar.
          • Ancedotal