Skip to comments.Why 'no Macs' is no longer a defensible IT strategy
Posted on 04/22/2008 1:45:14 AM PDT by Swordmaker
More users are demanding Macs in the enterprise. Thanks to key computing shifts, supporting their appetite for Apple is now a straightforward option for IT
Once confined to marketing departments and media companies, the Mac is spilling over into a wider array of business environments, thanks to the confluence of a number of computing trends, not the least among them a rising tide of end-user affinity for the Apple experience.
Luckily for IT, many of those same trends are making it easier for tech departments to say yes to the Mac by facilitating IT's ability to provide enterprise-grade Mac management and support.
"We're seeing more requests outside of creative services to switch to Macs from PCs," notes David Plavin, operations manager for Mac systems engineering at the U.S. IT division of Publicis Groupe, a global advertising conglomerate. There are so many requests that Plavin now supports 2,500 Macs across the U.S. -- nearly a quarter of all Publicis' U.S. PCs.
And Plavin is less of an anomaly than you might think. Buoyed by increased interest in the consumer arena, Macs are cropping up in more and more organizations, in large part because end-users are pushing for them.
According to NPD Research, Apple's share of the retail market has climbed to 14 percent as of February 2008. Gartner and IDC report that the Mac's share in the U.S. as of March 31 was 6.6 percent. Alongside that home-based shift from PC to Mac is a significant uptake for Apple among businesses, as Forrester estimates organizational Mac adoption tripled last year to 4.2 percent, mainly on the backs of enthusiasts seeking approval for Apple's silver boxes in small workgroups.
[ Discover the pros -- and cons -- of the Mac in business in our special report. And become a Mac pro through Tom Yager's Enterprise Mac blog and InfoWorld's Enterprise Mac newsletter. ]
Perhaps a better barometer of the trend is the effect increased Mac sales are having at outsourcing firms, which have traditionally been reluctant to support the platform due to a perceived lack of market in the past.
Centerbeam, a Windows management outsourcer for midsize businesses, is one such outsourcer eyeing the possibility of extending its services to cover the Mac, says Karen Hayward, Centerbeam's executive vice president. Security firm Kapersky Labs has already created a Mac version of its anti-virus software for release should Mac growth continue (and the Mac thus finds itself prey to more hackers), while Boingo Wireless, a Wi-Fi hotspot federator, is developing a Mac client to allow Mac users to tap into the Boingo network.
Couple this increasing attention to services with the falling away of another knock on the Mac, price, and you can see why even the federal government -- which has pockets of Mac users in a diverse set of agencies, including NASA, the U.S. Army, and the National Institute for Standards and Technology -- is prepping for increased use of Macs in business environments, having put together an official guide to implementing Mac security to conform to federal requirements.
After all, as Publicis' Plavin notes, Macs -- which cost the same as equivalently configured business-class PCs -- are cheaper to support because they are easier to support. And when it comes to diverting IT resources toward competitive advantage, doesn't ease of support sound compelling?
What has changed to make the Mac fit better
IT can embrace that Mac momentum, not just tolerate it, thanks to several shifts in computing that make the Mac a better enterprise fit than in the past -- first and foremost being a rising threat to Microsoft's other mainstay in the enterprise desktop environment, Internet Explorer.
Firefox, which has risen in popularity to account for 16.8 percent of browser use on the Web, according to Net Applications, as of December 2007, has broken IE's stranglehold on Internet app delivery, which it had maintained through ActiveX controls. Because Microsoft never released a version of IE for Mac OS X, Mac users were frozen out of ActiveX-based Web sites, making many SaaS (software as a service) offerings and enterprise-app Web clients off limits to the Mac.
[ Discover how to make Apple's other platform, the iPhone, fit in your business as well. ]
But to ensure operability on Firefox, developers had to configure their wares to support Java instead of or in addition to ActiveX -- with Mac gaining compatibility as a client at the same time.
WebEx is one of the more notorious examples of this switch. The popular Web conferencing tool became fully Mac-compatible only last month, as new owner Cisco Systems decided to abandon an ActiveX-only deployment strategy and add both Java and Mac-client options. (Until then, ReadyTalk and Adobe Connect were two of the few Mac-friendly Web conferencing tools, notes Peter Lincoln, IT director at temp-staff agency Aquent.)
Of course, not everyone is hip to the Java-based Firefox push. Many of MSN's excellent tools require Microsoft's browser due to the use of ActiveX, as do the support tools at a variety of companies with heterogeneous customers, including Seagate and AT&T.
Still, many other vendors have avoided ActiveX dependency and the customer exclusion that results. Those options have driven vendor choices in environments where heterogeneity is the norm, such as at college campuses. Southern Polytechnic State University in Georgia, for example, chose Juniper Networks' wireless VPN tool mainly because it didn't require a client on user devices, nor limit itself to ActiveX for on-the-fly client provisioning, which would have excluded the large number of Macs that students and faculty use on campus, says CIO Bill Gruzka.
The rise of Web-based computing
Another trend facilitating Mac use in business is the increased enterprise dependecy on SaaS, wherein a diverse array of applications -- from sales-force automation through supply-chain coordination -- is delivered through the browser. Most SaaS applications have not relied on ActiveX, given SaaS' inherent goal of making apps available to anyone, anywhere. This push toward platform agnosticism translates to the use of standards, letting the Mac right in. Ted Elliott, CEO of recruiting software provider Jobscience, says he has noted a rise in Mac customers now that Jobscience has moved to the SaaS model -- customers his Salesforce.com-based platform supports out of the box.
Beyond Firefox and SaaS, many enterprise app developers have adopted the Web as a portal to their apps, following the strong Web-portal drive of the late 1990s.
"The trend in the enterprise is to Web-enabled apps," notes Ezra Gottheil, an analyst at Technology Business Research. Thus, a Mac user can access Oracle or SAP ERP apps over the Web, regardless of whether there is a Mac-specific client available. Even Microsoft takes this approach to provide Mac compatibility in its SharePoint collaboration environment, which its Mac Office tools don't directly support. (More on Microsoft later.)
Mac-heavy organizations tend toward Web-based apps rather than packaged ones because of Mac compatibility issues, says IT director Lincoln. That's precisely what happened at his company, Aquent. Almost everything is hosted or available as a SaaS application, including sales-force management, ERP, Web conferencing, and anti-malware apps. Aquent's packaged apps are largely limited to Office, e-mail clients, and Web browsers.
Many mainstay, client-installed business apps -- Microsoft Office, IBM's Lotus Notes, Intuit QuickBooks, and the open source EnterpriseDB, for example -- come in mostly compatible Mac versions. And, of course, creative apps such as Adobe Creative Suite and QuarkXPress have long been cross-platform. But many of these, especially enterprise apps, "are late on the Mac and aren't as elegant as their Windows versions," says analyst Gottheil.
Compatibility: Physical and virtual
The rise of virutalization, as well as Apple's shift toward standardized PC components, has also helped pave the way for Mac use in business.
First Parallels Desktop, then EMC's VMware Fusion, enabled Apple's Intel-based Macs to run honest-to-goodness Windows, not just in a separate boot volume (Apple offered that capability a couple years ago with its free BootCamp utility) but within the Mac OS environment. Users can now run Windows-only apps in the Mac OS, or in a separate window if they prefer, with cut-and-paste, shared directories, and shared hardware access. Armed with virtual machines such as these, Mac users can access the full array of applications available to their Windows-based brethren.
And thanks to the Mac's move to standard PC components, such as Intel processors, USB ports, Ethernet ports, and 802.11 wireless capabilities, such compatibility uses are falling by the wayside. As late as the mid-1990s, Macs included a series of proprietary connections, such as LocalTalk and ADB, and tapped SCSI drive interface technology found only on high-performance PCs. This hardware divide complicated not only IT work but also application development. Most of these hardware issues have been rectified, leaving just a few special keyboard keys to map between Windows and Mac OS when developing cross-platform apps.
Managing Macs in the enterprise
If you concede that your Mac users can run any software they need, either directly or via a VM, you may raise an old IT canard: manageability.
It may surprise you that Mac OS X Server and the separate Apple Remote Desktop software have for a decade facilitated Mac management, providing functionality akin to any Windows-oriented management tool. Developed for Apple's education market, these tools allow you to manage OS updates and app installations and upgrades. With Apple's Automator tool, you can automate much of the management workflows, essentially by creating executable scripts. You can also configure your Macs to boot into a network volume, to cope with drive failure, or to provide visiting employees or guests a nonlocal copy of the OS.
Apple Remote Desktop also allows you to control a user's PC for troubleshooting and technical support, as well as inventory the Macs. And Apple doesn't charge a per-client license for the software, just $500 per copy installed on your administrators' Macs, supporting an unlimited number of clients. (You can also manage Windows and Linux clients using Apple Remote Desktop's VNC support.)
If you don't want an Apple-owned tool, consider FileWave's cross-platform management tools, recommends Publicis' Plavin. Or the cross-platform Client Management Suite from Symantec's Altiris unit, suggests Aquent's Lincoln.
For managing users, access control, and related security policies, Mac OS X Server's Open Directory works with Microsoft's ActiveDirectory, so you can apply ActiveDirectory permissions to and enforce policies on your Mac users and Mac-based file shares from ActiveDirectory. Or you can manage them from OpenDirectory, such as when you have a separate Mac workgroup whose initial policies you want to inherit from ActiveDirectory but then customize for that workgroup in Open Directory. Apple says it supports every one of Microsoft's ActiveDirectory services.
Galen Gruman is executive editor of InfoWorld.
“The usual argument is security. True enough. IT fears Macs because we dont need them the way PC users do.”
I had a nice Apple Mac, I could not give the thing away, i paid literally to ship it to a third world country where they (family) would appreciate it.
I can give away PCs all day long in this country but nobody really wants a mac.
I’m not crapping on the apples, I bought my wife a Ipod Nano 8 gig (a few months ago) and I will be buying myself a new Apple 80Gig classic very soon (thanks to the wife who wanted my 8 gig)
When apple owns more market share, the spammers and hackers will be knocking down the door.
Until then, Apple users should not be bragging about security. IMO.
Go ahead, i got my flame suit on, I’m just being honest and stating it how it is.
Shame...I made it through 4 years on FR without being personally attacked by a complete stranger without a clue.
Your conceit is outstripped only by your complete lack of facts.
I apologize. You may indeed make more money than I do although I am not going to get into a “you show me yours and I’ll show you mine” discussion.
My comment was very wrongly worded, but I have grown increasingly sensitive to the “flaky” description aimed at me and the people I work with every day. What we do is critical for the success of the enterprise and we are, on the whole, a highly educated and well-remunerated group.
I am not going to agree or argue with you about placing blame for Web incompatibility - except to say I know AAPL pretty well and they do not give a crap and they could at the margins be helpful - you can trust me on this or not.
But whoever is to blame the fact remains that - for a significant number of people doing important work (i.e. DOCTORs updating patient records, Wall Street guys listen to earnings calls, etc.) YOU CANT USE A MAC UNLESS YOU INSTALL AND USE WINDOWS!!!
That is a fact and prospective Mac users need to be aware!!! THEY COULD FIND OUT THAT THE CRITICAL WEBSITES THEY NEED MAY NOT WORK.
Get it this time?!!!
“Unfortunately, there is not much that Apple can do about it beyond enabling Windows to run on Macs. ActiveX will not be supported on Mac OS X and Safari. ‘
Completely and totally untrue. There is a very important use of the web that Wall Street types need. It used to work under IE5 and WMP9.
With the changes in IE, WMP, ActiveX, these websites got harder and harder to use on a Mac and are now pretty much inaccessible. I have the “fortune” to work on Wall Street and have contacts at these people’s customers and some reputation on the Street such that I got the people that run these websites to be open to talk to AAPL such that they could get the websites compatible. However I worked AAPL from the top down and bottom up to get them to pay attention and they just do not care. I came at it from IR, AAPL IT (where I have a boat load of friends still), marketing (more friends), and ADC leadership.
They see AAPL as a consumer device and if it does not work in business they really do not care at this stage.
There are plenty of things AAPL could do to, at the margin, improve website compatibility for business users.
But MY MAIN POINT is that if you are thinking about switching to Mac and you use your Windows machine for business you need to not only make sure the applications you need have a Mac version but you also need to check the websites. This is not too hard. Just bookmark or jot down the critical places you use and go to an AAPL store and check them out.
The other choice is run windows. I have one Mac user that spends 90% of their computing time sitting in front of Windows under Parallels.
And never forget the basic concept of Mac is that you do not need to be a guru to run it and for the prime target market for Mac the emulation packages are tricky. I got them working but I was in IT for 20 years before wall street and even today I follow tech.
I’ll tell you one more thing professional users will learn to loath about Macs in the coming future. MS-Office incompatability, Here is what is happening: the latest version of MS-Office does not support macros. Anyone that gets professional powerpoints or spreadsheets (at least wall street types) have macros. The old versions of office apps have the macro capability (VB) but cannot open the new MSFT format. Is this an evil design by MSFT to screw with Mac users? I think so. Is AAPL the cause of this? No. Could AAPL do something? Yeah I think so.
Impact of MS-Office incompatibility - one more reason Macs are tough for business people and BTW students.
Don’t get me wrong I love my Mac. I have been a Mac user way back decades ago even before I was coicindentally hired by AAPL’s IT department to do some database applications.
But the growing incompatibility is a real challenge and AAPL needs to address it with education, marketing, support and technology.
If you think this is not the case you have your head in the sand.
“Virtualization on the desktop is great, but server-level virtualization has been around for quite a while — Citrix”
You must be a yute, Citrix acquired virtualization relatively recently. VM/CMS is the grandaddy. Around since the ‘80s.
Before buying a Mac you need to test compatibility:
1) Make sure there are Mac versions of apps you need - obvious.
2) Make sure the websites you use are compatible - not so obvious and getting worse all the time.
3) Mac sure the people you do business with will not send you MS-Office files with Macros, etc.
There are workarounds including installing Windows in a VM on the Mac. But it is a pain in the arse.
Mac compatibility is slipping. MS-Office is the latest challenge for Mac users. Sucks.
“With IE8 and forthcoming versions of IE, youre pretty much going to have to write to W3C anyway.”
Well, IE8 will be a long time in coming as the dominate browser. And I bet you MSFT offers backward compatibility.
“Some tools are better than other tools.”
Sometimes the best tool is not the best tool. My best tool is my 18V Dewalt cutoff tool. What a gem for working on the loader/backhoe. But not for driving nails or fixing the fence.
Thanks for the suggestions. If I bought a Mac, it would be for home use, not the office. We have to use Windows at work (in part) because there are commercial websites that are IE-centric and FireFox running under Linux won’t function on those sites. I blame the owners of those sites for not creating browser-neutral content. Finally, I prefer documents and spreadsheets without macros — such things are trojan horses. Not as versatile, but safer.
Our systems people use a lot of Mac’s.
Off by a couple of decades there. IBM's VM OS traces its roots to the 1960s. The original work was done at IBM's Cambridge Labs (which developed the Cambridge Monitor System, CMS) on a modified System/360 Model 40. CP-67 debuted as the first commercial virtual OS a few years later.
A repackaged version for the then-new System/370 machines was released as VM/370 in the early 1970s. All open-source, of course, (long before anyone thought in those terms) since back then software was viewed as a freebie to help sell hardware.
“IBM’s VM OS traces its roots to the 1960s”
Thanks for the update. Could we call VM OS the great-granddaddy of VM?
I was doing PDP-11 work in a predominantly mainframe shop in NYC in 1980 and they treated the introduction of VM/CMS as a virus. I was just slime.
I hate macros also. But if I am trying to win new business I can hardly say, “Please take the macros out of the company presentation and financial models because I run MS-Office on a Mac. Or I tried to listen to the web cast you suggested but could you convert it to flash or quicktime for me? Or that demo we were talking about required ActiveX and I have a Mac, Sorry?”
I can do this to friends but customers? No way. AAPL and the sychophants don’t get it.
Same here, but our network security is dictated by the FDIC.
The other issue involved is that using Macs locks you into a sole source hardware vendor.
I can see it now - some employee in Apple's marketing dept. suggests to Steve Jobs that the company could boost their market share by incorporating ActiveX and VBScript into Mac OS X. The guy would be frog-marched into the parking lot and told to pick up his box of belongings next week.
It's unfortunate for Microsoft's customers that they decided to discontinue VBScript support in their Mac products, but it's their proprietary technology and their decision to make. Apple has provided an adequate solution for most Mac users by enabling Windows to run on their systems.
For those of us who work with Apple's products at a technical level, we view things like ActiveX as an unwarranted security risk with little benefit for most users. The fact that Mac OS X is not contaminated with crap like ActiveX is a good thing.
Apple has a different strategy for getting into the enterprise. It is a long-term, cautious strategy that is unfolding over time. It certainly involve some factors you mentioned - education, marketing, support and technology - and it is driven by acceptance in the consumer space. But instead of adopting ActiveX, Apple will promote interoperability based on open standards.
You simply refuse to understand the main point.
Macs are incompatible with industry standards and if you need to use these standards to do your job you will have pains with Mac. And nobody at AAPL gives a crap.
Now we can disagree whose fault that is but it is a fact of life.
Do you disagree? Are you saying that Macs gracefully comport with all industry de facto standards? Or are you saying people should not care that they cannot do their job?
I think you have no practical business experience. Typical, answer from an IT guy.
I agree Windows is crappy technology. But MSFT is worlds ahead of AAPL and IBM in setting industry standards for real world business applications. I was at the recent giant HIMSS conference and about 95% of the vendors were building applications that would only work in a 100% MSFT environment.
Even IBM is being left in the dust.
MSFT has gotten a huge partner eco-system and they are building vertical and horizontal business apps. They are NOT using open standards, they are using de facto industry standards as defined by MSFT.
Now is this good. No. Hell no. In fact I think it is amazingly stupid. But it is a fact.
“Impact of MS-Office incompatibility - one more reason Macs are tough for business people and BTW students.....”
the cure for that nonsense is right here...
There is, IMHO, absolutely NO reason, whatsoever, for the continued MS Office extortion game....
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