Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Apple in the Enterprise: A Strategic Guide

Macs in the enterprise: From Apple's consumer roots to a valued business machine

New IT features make managing multiple Macs in the enterprise a breeze. These standout features also underlie the increased usage of Apple computers in business.

A brief history of Macs in the enterprise

Until the late 1980s, Apple was mainly a consumer-based company and was not focused on selling to businesses except for the expensive Lisa and Apple II/III. Apple products were, however, staples in departments with creatives such as marketing, graphics, and media creation.

In 2001, Apple started to focus energy on the enterprise sector again with the release of OS X. When OS X was announced, there were two versions: a standard version that could run on clients, and a server version that was capable of turning a Mac into a full-fledged server and running server-grade apps and services.

Many of OS X's enterprise suites were ultimately based on NeXTStep, from which OS X was created. NeXT was Steve Jobs's company that Apple bought in the late 1990s, and it was solely based around creating solutions with enterprise-grade hardware, software, and operating systems. The key to OS X is its UNIX underpinning, which made it more secure, more robust, and more resilient than other OSs.

Thinking differently than its competitors

One big key differentiator between Apple and its competitors in the enterprise market is that Apple doesn't create enterprise-grade equipment in the traditional sense. The hardware and software that enterprises purchase from Apple is the same equipment that consumers can buy at their local Apple store. This is a good thing, because some employees use Macs and other Apple products at home, so it's unlikely they'll require training on these solutions at work, saving the company time and money.

Another key area where Apple has innovated in the enterprise is with software, specifically software development tools, and its deal with IBM to produce enterprise-grade software for various vertical markets. MobileFirst from IBM is available for iOS, and provides industries with quality enterprise-level software and services.

Perhaps the key selling point for Apple platforms in the enterprise are the support and service plans. Because Apple makes the hardware, the operating system, and much of the software, IT departments only need to contact one company for hardware and software support.

With the market share of PCs slipping each quarter, Apple has continually been shipping more and more Macs every quarter, outpacing the PC industry year over year in terms of vendor shipments.

One of the biggest differences between Apple and its competitors is that nearly all the competitors (Dell, HP, Lenovo et al) run Windows. While you can install Linux or another open-source OS on the computer, it's rare that enterprises support Linux on their networks or for their employees. With the Mac, however, you can run Windows, Linux, and the latest version of OS X. You can even use Parallels or VMware virtualization solutions to run Windows and Linux apps next to your native OS X apps. You can truly be platform independent with a Mac.

Development tools

Many companies will be interested in Apple platforms from a development standpoint. Apple ships its own development tools for both Mac and iOS. These tools are bundled with Xcode, which is one of the best IDEs on the market; this allows you to begin shipping software throughout your company with relative ease.

Apple's development toolkit (which includes the Objective-C and Swift languages) feature various advancements like Interface Builder and the Cocoa APIs, making development speedier than Windows, Linux, or other enterprise-grate development tools. Plus, it's easier to find developers specializing in iOS and Mac development than ever before.

Pricing and purchasing

Many companies, including Apple, offer business pricing, but one thing they most likely cannot match is the abundance of retail stores. What's so important about these stores? Well, in each and every Apple retail location, there is a business team standing by to help you with the purchase, configuration, and ongoing support of the equipment.

Through the Joint Venture program, you can even get a dedicated phone number to speak with a genius at your local retail location, get training for your employees, and more.

When you contact your local Apple business team, they will set you up with an account. Each and every time you order from this business account, the purchases count towards a discounted rate that you will get after ordering a certain dollar amount each year. You can order everything you need directly from this business member, or online through the Apple store.

Apple resources for businesses

Apple provides many online resources for businesses. Check out these resources to learn more information and to find out about additional tools.

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