Apple is, without a doubt, one of the single most powerful driving forces in the world of technology. That being the case, why is its inroad to the enterprise such a long, uphill climb? How could it be that such a well-oiled machine like the Mac would have problems gaining acceptance into the larger world of business? Macs are reliable, have the security and stability of a UNIX-based core, and the integration between software and hardware cannot be bested.
Macs tend to be relegated to the graphically-inclined departments and multi-media tasks. You won't walk into an enterprise-level company to see a farm of iMacs and Macbooks on desks. There are reasons for that. In fact, I would hypothesize that there are two very crucial areas that Apple could focus on to improve its presence in the larger companies across the globe. Let's examine those areas.
There's no way around the fact that Apple hardware has a significantly higher cost than the standard fare. That cost ensures that you are getting not only impeccable design, but outstanding integration and long-lasting hardware. However, no matter how beautiful or long-lasting that hardware is, big businesses aren't buying it. Why? Simple... the cost. If your business has a budget of X, and X would buy you 100 PC-based machines vs. 60 Macs, which route are you going to take? Of course you'd take the route that gets you the most for less. That's how businesses work. Apple, on the other hand, wants everyone to pay that price because, in the end, you get what you pay for.
Organizations that pay less for the PC know that they're getting the Windows platform, which will suffer the slings and arrows of malware, viruses, and the like. What those businesses don't quite seem to understand is that, in the end, the cost associated with deploying Windows-based PCs evens out with the Mac. Add to that the difference in shelf-life between Macs and PCs, and you can see that, not only does the difference balance out, the scales seem to tip to Macs at being the more cost-effective solution.
But big business doesn't always think "in the long run." Companies want immediate returns to empower their bottom line in the now -- not in an unknown future. What's fascinating about this issue is that most big businesses will opt for the pricier iPad over the Android tablet -- but when it comes to the PC or laptop, the PC still dominates.
Apple does have a Volume Purchase Program for Business. Unfortunately, that program is for iOS apps and books, not hardware. In order for Apple to make serious progress in the enterprise, this has to change. Apple needs to swallow its pride and ego and understand that, in order for big businesses to open their minds (and wallets), it's going to have to develop a volume pricing model for iMacs and Macbooks.
Think like Windows
I'm not talking about the Windows platform per say. What I mean is simple: The Windows platform is built for business. This is especially true on the server level. With Active Directory, you can create an ideal structure with which to manage your staff's login, security levels, and much more. The Apple platform includes LDAP, which does a great job with handling the sign-in duties for a heterogenous network. What it does not have is the ability to manage group policies. There are third-party solutions that can handle this task, but Apple needs it built in. In fact, I would go so far as to say what Apple really needs is to develop the equivalent of group policy and roll it into LDAP. This would go a very long way to help business adoption of Mac in the enterprise.
Apple could even go a few steps further and roll together an Enterprise Server Edition of OS X that would include things like:
- Web server
- Exchange-equivalent mail server
- Group Policy
- Certificate server
- Terminal server
If you coupled the above list with the new Mac Pro, Apple would have a major powerhouse of a business server, and larger companies would be remiss to not give Apple a try.
Apple isn't really all that far from slipping into the enterprise. By taking on the above two issues, the hippest tech company on the planet could do some major damage to Microsoft's marketshare within the enterprise world. But until they make such changes, Apple desktops and laptops will have to be happy being relegated to small companies and individuals.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.