Enterprise organizations used to standardize platforms. Often, most everyone within the organization from data entry clerks to C-level executives, ran the same brand desktops and displays. Of course, the C-level executives' systems were faster, boasted larger displays, and were set up in nicer, more plush offices, but companies as a rule standardized on the same operating systems, office productivity tools, and enterprise applications.
The steady rise of software-as-a-service (SaaS) and cloud-based application services means enterprise organizations are losing their dependency on any single OS, browser, or even computing platform. Sales personnel in the field can arm themselves with MacBook Airs, while C-level executives carry only iPads, and data entry staffs wield low-cost Windows desktops or even thin clients.
Even if organizations attempt resisting the cloud, software vendors have begun forcing their hands. Just this month Adobe Systems announced it will no longer sell its Creative Suite software as a boxed product, requiring instead that customers purchase the company's Creative Cloud subscription. Further, the components that compose Creative Cloud-Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and Dreamweaver, to name a few-will no longer be available separately, according to an open letter to customers Adobe published on its website.
The cloud as an equalizer
Network administrators used to require end users operate a specific platform, such as Windows XP Professional, to ensure the end user's desktop proved compatible with the organization's back-end servers, software programs, and enterprise applications. With email services, ERP, CRM, financial, EMR and an overwhelming majority of other critical applications migrating to cloud-based architectures, the dependency on a single OS is largely being eliminated.
Organizations can now empower executives to specify personal preferences. In other cases, mobile staff, marketing directors, and other employees are personally purchasing alternative tools (Android tablets, Apple iOS devices, MacBooks and even Windows Ultrabooks) and deploying them on their own. TechRepublic dedicates a special BYOD site to tracking the trend, as the BYOD movement's impact is so profound on IT operations.
Widespread Mac compatibility
As applications and services increasingly migrate to the cloud, whether the back-end cloud infrastructure is located within an organization's own data center or a vendor's data facility, Mac compatibility within all aspects of an enterprise's daily business operations continues to grow and simplify and may help explain why Apple hardware device sales continue outpacing traditional PC sales. Cloud-based services often place the most systems requirement emphasis on ensuring organizations possess reliable, low latency bandwidth and employ Web browsers possessing performance and security standards so often shared by Apple Safari, Google Chrome, and Mozilla FireFox, meaning enterprise Mac users possess multiple compatible methods of connecting to cloud-based applications and services.
Consider the list of popular financial, CRM, ERP and email services that all work and prove compatible with Mac OS X. Intuit QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions subscription (cloud) model supports Mac users. So, too, do cloud-based application providers Go Daddy, Google Apps, Rackspace, Salesforce, SAP Business ByDesign, Sugar CRM, and numerous others.
Look for Mac compatible Web-based services to grow as vendors (such as Adobe this past month) continue pushing customers to the cloud. The trend will continue, and likely pick up speed, as SaaS increasingly becomes the norm. And, as trends increasingly push enterprise organizations to the cloud, each individual suite, program, and product that moves to the cloud becomes one less tool potentially posing a Mac compatibility hurdle within the enterprise, as cloud-based applications largely prove compatible across a range of platforms including Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.