The other day I mentioned a little exchange I had with an online poster who believes that Macs are high-end consumer machines, not suitable for business. As I said at the time, this is the sort of myth that has existed since the very first Mac arrived in 1984. Then it was about the pretty interface. When Microsoft cribbed that interface, the argument changed, but it never ended.
Well, according to a survey from Parallels, who makes virtualization software that lets you run Windows and other operating systems on the Mac, some 45% of the 200 IT heads surveyed presently give employees the choice of using a Mac at work.
The survey also reported that 77% of those IT "decision makers" find Macs more reliable than Windows PCs, 65% said Macs were easier to support, and 65% believed that offering Macs would help attract more employees. At a time when unemployment remains relatively high, the last is a surprising result.
The survey also indicated that Mac misconceptions still persist in the workplace. 68% of those who work at businesses that don't use Macs said it was because they couldn't run Windows apps on OS X. That this survey was conducted by a company that makes software that lets you run Windows on a Mac makes the result doubly curious. Clearly these IT people don't know anything about Boot Camp either, which lets you reboot your Mac under Windows.
So maybe Apple needs to do a better job of educating businesses about what a Mac can do. Or maybe these IT pros need to do more thinking rather than acting. You see, Apple does have information online that covers Windows compatibility, such as this page. There's another page that covers the reasons why a Mac is suited for business use.
All right, these pages are heavy on promotion as much as they offer the basics of why a Mac plays nicely in the business world. As the survey shows, more and more businesses let employees bring their own hardware, and the Mac's status in the office has been helped greatly by the popularity of the iPhone. Indeed, a published report this week indicates that Apple recently sold the 500 millionth iPhone. The critics, by the way, seem to forget that, when Steve Jobs first announced the iPhone, he said Apple would be happy to have a 1% market share by the end of 2008.
This doesn't mean that a Mac will suddenly take over the business PC space. Although PC sales are declining, they are well entrenched in the office. Many of the Macs that appear in a business environment are notebooks, used by employees as a combo office and travel machine. The cheap PC in the front office will remain the cheap PC in the front office.
In addition, many PCs are outfitted with vertical applications for which there is no Mac equivalent. Using a Mac with virtualization software wouldn't make sense from a standpoint of cost. And even if there is a Mac alternative, the issues of migration and retraining will often make that a difficult choice. Also, if a business is filling the office with cheap PCs that maybe run a single app or two, there's hardly a reason to replace those machines with Macs, though a bank of Mac minis would seem quite suitable. One still has to be realistic.
But the myths will persist as the PC fades in the rear view mirror. Yet another was the claim from that online poster that even the Mac Pro workstation is really just a toy for hobbyists making electronic music. I don't think such a ludicrous comment is worth any further explanation.
Now some suggest Apple might have done better early on in working harder to address the needs of businesses, such as offering specially configured Macs, and maybe even more low-cost models than just today's Mac mini. But as Dell and HP have demonstrated in recent years, there's little or no profit in selling tens of millions of cheap PC boxes.
That doesn't stop Apple from marketing premium PCs — premium meaning not just the price but the hardware — for both consumers and businesses. The ability to bring a Mac into an office environment will also generate some sales from employees who don't have to buy a PC because they want to duplicate the work machine at home.
But the presence of Macs in the enterprise has mostly flown below the radar when it comes to Apple. The information about Macs and business is relatively sparse, and the Apple Store, although businesses are welcomed, generally caters to the consumer.
Apple's approach has been to build consumer interest in a product, and let it naturally spread into the business world. That approach has certainly worked with the iPhone and the iPad, and Apple does provide easy management tools for businesses to deploy hardware and apps. Indeed, when you consider mobile gear in the enterprise, Apple actually dominates.
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