As the corporate environment becomes more diverse, user support will have to become more diverse. Thanks to a new alliance of interoperability providers, the idea of supporting Macintosh in the workplace is becoming more viable. But we need to understand what new challenges will be raised.
Since the Mac became available with an Intel processor, there have been those who predicted that the Mac would be a valid corporate alternative, placing the Mac in direct competition with the likes of HP, Dell, and IBM. I personally thought that we would see a shift sooner (2003) but I may only have been five years off the mark.
Five software companies have come together to form an alliance to promote the use of the Mac in the corporate environment managed with Microsoft Windows. The allied companies include Atempo, Centrify, Group Logic, LANrev, and Parallels. The common factor between these companies is that they are all focused on interoperability technology between the Mac OS X and Windows.
As a Mac user, I can only say, "It's about time". But as with anything new, there will be impacts to the Support staff that count on us to know the technology and be able to fix what is broken within service SLAs. Therein lies the challenge.
This new alliance plans to provide education to both end users and corporations about the ease of use factor for the Mac. That will be a good thing as there are many who think of the Mac as being harder to use and harder to support. There is also a Best Practices area that is currently a vacuum. There is little education specifically addressing interoperability issues such as Active Directory integration, patch management, backups in a mixed environment, and security.
The alliance was formed in recognition that there is a growing number of Mac users, particularly Mac notebook users, placing new pressure on corporations to allow Macs on the network. Recently, Google has been allowing its employees to choose what they want to run, Windows, Mac, or Linux and IBM is experimenting with Macs. Another driver is the adoption of the iPhone by business, putting pressure on IT to incorporate them into the environment.
While basic education is going to be an issue, another consideration is going to be certification. You can certify in the Mac OS and in their server line. But what does the potential shift really mean in terms of required certification? Carrying both Windows certs and Apple certs? And will there be a tolerance for IT Support to come up to speed? Or is a better answer to have duplicate teams, one supporting the Windows environment and the other supporting the Mac? I think that these are the questions that will most directly affect those of us who provide end user support.
I have long believed that the corporate environment should be diverse and should be able to utilize the equipment that does the necessary job best. It may be that the enterprise is coming around to my way of thinking. I personally use a wide variety of hardware and software because some things are managed better. Graphics is very much at home on my Mac while I maintain databases using Windows XP and Access. The alliance makes good sense, especially as we consider the changes that the corporate environment is making. But I think that the change will come with a certain amount of growing pain as Windows support people are forced to confront the new machine in the environment.
How would you be impacted by the introduction of Macs to your workplace? Or do you support a mixed environment today?