The Apple challenge to the PC enterprise fortress

Increasingly, as more business applications are made available on iOS, enterprises are looking to Apple to provide their choice of device.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

While PCs have been the platform of choice within business for a long time, the usage of PCs and Macs in enterprises is currently on par, according to recent research from analyst firm Telsyte, signalling the growing presence of Apple within the enterprise sector.

Telstye senior analyst Rodney Gedda said that while Apple may never have had any real intention to be used in the enterprise space, Macs are increasingly being offered as a choice by businesses to their staff -- mainly driven by the demands of employees who have come to appreciate the device as consumers -- or employees who are bringing in their own Apple devices.

"There are differences in use cases, but for the most part, the business uptake of Apple devices is similar to that of PCs, and that's including bring-your-own or company-supplied devices; there's a combination of all that going in enterprise," he said.

Gedda said the other primary reason why Macs are growing in popularity is because the applications that are available on OS X are compatible with what businesses are after.

"Apple markets itself as having numerous applications, including many for business. You can't really have a platform these days without applications," he said.

"In terms of openness, Windows is technically more of an open [ecosystem], but in terms of being able to develop, deploy, and manage applications, the two are pretty much on par. You might have slight advantages with Windows, but it has its own server issues as well, compared to OS X."

Cloud accounting software firm Xero is one company that recently vouched how important it is to make its applications available on Apple devices. The New Zealand-based company signed a partnership with Apple to deliver its accounting software across all devices: Macs, iPads, and iPhones.

"We have seen tremendous demand for iOS solutions from customers around the globe as they look to transform the way they manage their businesses in today's mobile world," said Rod Drury, CEO of Xero.

"iOS is key to our customers' success, and we're focused on creating a beautiful, design-led experience that not only delights users, but helps them run their businesses effortlessly and flawlessly."

At the same time, Apple itself has realised that there has been an increase in demand for its devices in the enterprise, recently forging a partnership with IBM to collaborate on building exclusive industry-specific applications on iOS. Some of these applications include the Retention app for the insurance industry; the Expert Tech app for telcos; Case Advice for government and law enforcement; and Incident Aware for social workers.

Gedda added that the other advantage Macs have over PCs is that Apple is known for delivering a fairly consistent life cycle in terms of security, ongoing manufacturing support, updates, battery life, and ease of use -- common features that businesses assess when deciding what devices to invest in. This is unlike Android or Windows, which, Gedda said, often struggle to provide such consistency.

The Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) is one company that has begun offering employees Macs as their choice of device. ASX CIO Tim Thurman explained that as part of his vision of implementing a mobile strategy within the company -- aside from being a "disruptor" in a rather traditional company -- is because he wants to ensure that employees are given the flexible choice to work how they want. Staff members are given the choice to work on a Mac, Surface, or ThinkPad, which can also be for personal use.

Thurman said about a third of his staff members are currently using a Mac as their device of choice.

"There are a lot of people out there that are Apple savvy, so they choose Mac for their own personal use, and the fact that they can manage it better," he said.

As for how the company copes with running three different devices, Thurman said the Macs are installed with Parallels to enable users to switch between Windows and Mac OS X applications. He said this enables Mac users to log on to the company's network system through JumpBox, which "protects us if they might have anything on their device". He added that company emails are accessed via Good, which is "secured down to the device, so it works out quite well for us".

"We did quite a lot of work trying to figure out what was going to be the best [device] option for us to use, but my goal was to make employees the flexibility to use for their own personal device," he said.

However, the ASX is not alone. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the University of New South Wales, and Toyota Australia are among some other Australian companies that are also using Apple devices in their environment.

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