Apple has achieved an enterprise presence, almost in spite of itself, and primarily on the backs of its iPhone and iPad products, has managed to once again become a PC player. Sure, the Chicken-Little Wannabes are all squawking about the end of the PC world with the 13.9% drop in Q1 shipments, but Apple’s US shipments came in at 10% of the total, good enough for third place, behind PC powerhouses HP and Dell.
For a company that shot to success on the iconic Macintosh, managed to sneak into the business market largely through graphics-oriented professionals, and dropped Computer from its name in 2007, possibly in recognition that it was no longer just, or even primarily, a computer company, its road back to PC respectability has been a long time coming. According to a recent Gartner report, Apple’s Macs will become as accepted by enterprise IT next year as Windows PCs are today.
“We have seen a functional and philosophical shift from PC-centric to a mix,” said Bob Seaman, Director of Technology, Ancero. “They (Apple) started this resurgence with their music device, then phone, then tablet.” This shift is all from end users and represents the consumerization of IT, he said.
Based in Mount Laurel, NJ, Ancero is one of the largest managed service providers in the Northeast, and was recently Apple certified. With approximately 1,100 customers and more than 17 years of experience, the company has almost been dragged along with Apple’s recent enterprise success.
“We’re forced like everybody else to be up to speed on Apple.” While there is still a lot of creative demand, Seaman said most often the new demand starts with executive users.
Age is also a factor, he said. “People under 30 know how to use Apple better because they’re everywhere in school.”
Familiarity may be factor, but it’s bring your own device which is really pushing the enterprise Apple, said Ancero’s Paul Boyer, Executive Director of Sales and Managing Partner. “They were really the catalyst of BYOD. We are seeing tremendous maturity in bringing your own device and managing those devices.”
Unlike Microsoft, Apple doesn’t have a huge enterprise-facing sales force catering to business. So even though it has some surprisingly cost-effective enterprise service offerings, large organizations often don’t know about. For instance, AppleCare OS Support (AOSS) is a cross-platform, incident-based support package that covers much more than warranty issues: integration with existing IT systems, network configuration and administration, software installation and use, problem diagnosis, and Web application support. It spans all Apple hardware, plus OS X, OS X Server, and iOS, as well as Apple’s entire suite of enterprise admin tools, such as the Configurator Utility for iOS device configuration.
Given its consumer focus, Apple has presented business challenges, said Seaman. “First off, security is always a concern. Apple’s model is not really that strict for mobile devices, so Ancero had to come up with a way to protect corporate data while understanding that the user can turn off a password or key code, and there’s no way to manage that. “Apple doesn’t allow remote control.”
That’s also an issue for when an employee leaves a company and takes corporate information with them, said Boyer. “Getting your data back needs a very clear policy that spells out what’s involved.”
The emergence of a multi-device world has made everything more complex, added Seaman. “Years ago we would manage smartphones as part of desktop plan. Today that policy is tough. It’s now actually more work than managing a PC: (for a typical user) it can be desktop, tablet and two smartphones.”