Forrester: Forget Macs. In business, it's still all about Windows

In spite of the continual noise around Macs gaining marketshare, Windows still totally and completely rules the enterprise roost.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

In spite of the continual noise around Macs gaining marketshare, Windows still totally and completely rules the enterprise roost.

That's another of the findings of the Forrester Research report I cited earlier today -- "Enterprise Desktop And Web 2.0/SaaS Platform Trends, 2007. 

Consumer love aside, Macs still just don't matter in the business world. From the report, released by Forrester on March 31:

"Enterprises’ share of Windows users dropped by nearly 4% during the year, but Microsoft’s monopoly remains undisputed: Some 95% of business users run Windows. While 2007 was a big year for Apple, with its enterprise share growing threefold to 4.2%, uptake remains limited to enthusiasts and small workgroups. IT departments crave standardization, and Macs pose too many problems for IT departments. The verdict for enterprise-focused vendors is clear: Unless your market is a niche business group, Windows is the only desktop you need support."

Before you ask, I already did: Did Microsoft fund or influence this study in some way? A company official told me plainly that "Forrester doesn't take vendor funding" for its work.

Next question: Does Forrester think Microsoft walks on water? What about Windows Vista -- a Harvard case study about which MUST be in the making? (Possible title: "Microsoft's Vista: How not to develop and market a product".)

For the record, Forrester is none too bullish about Vista's uptake in the enterprise, either:

"Adoption of Vista among Windows users increased by a little more than five percentage points during 2007 to end at 6.3%. But, much to Microsoft’s dismay, even this conservative growth cannot be attributed to upgrades from XP, which remained fixed at 90% throughout 2007. Upgrades are likely to have come from Windows 2000; its drop of six percentage points mirrored Vista’s growth. "

Microsoft is increasingly worrying about Apple in the consumer space. In fact, Microsoft is increasingly worrying about the consumer space, in general, which isn't too surprising since the Redmondians already have sewn up the enterprise and needs new markets to conquer in order to keep its growth rates up.

But in the enterprise, Apple isn't tops on Microsoft's list of companies to watch. IBM is. And given that the lion's share of Microsoft's revenues still comes from enterprise, not consumer, sales, I'd argue that Microsoft shouldn't let itself be distracted by all the noise around Apple's consumer market-share gains.

The part of this equation that is less cut-and-dried is the extent to which consumer success translates into business success. This is the reason that some Softies are increasingly worried about Apple's consumer laptop/notebook, cellphone and digital-music-player markets. Microsoft wants to emulate the Apple halo effect in the worst way.

However, more than one business user I know has said that s/he couldn't care less about which cell phones are popular among consumers. Instead, the focus should be on which cell phones work best in syncing up with Exchange Server and other corporate e-mail products/standards. And do warm and fuzzy feelings about an Xbox or a Zune really portend whether an IT buyer will gravitate toward Windows PCs, SharePoint Server or Microsoft-hosted CRM? Again, I'm not convinced….

What about you? Should Microsoft be worried about Apple's, Google's and other companies' consumer-market triumphs? Can the Redmondians afford to stick to their business knitting and just let the consumer chips fall where they may?

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