In the last year, I've witnessed a sea change in Macs' acceptance in business. To be sure, Macs have been the standard PCs for designers, layout artists, and the like since the mid-1980s, and Silicon Valley developers adopted the Mac as the preferred dev platform years ago (because it runs Unix, Linux, and Windows, too). MacBook Airs became senior execs' preferred status-symbol PCs a couple years ago as well.
But for bread-and-butter computing, it has been a Windows-only world. Those creative, dev, and exec Macs were the "other" handled outside the normal IT processes. That's changing -- fast. Gartner says IT will consider Macs to be as valid as Windows PCs next year. The tools to enable that are already coming.
[ For tips and tools for managing an enterprise Mac fleet, download InfoWorld's free "Business Mac" Deep Dive PDF special report today. | See InfoWorld's slideshow tour of OS X Mountain Lion's top 25 features and test your Apple smarts with our Apple IQ test: Round 2. | Keep up with key Apple technologies with the Technology: Apple newsletter. ]
The latest is Acronis's enterprises backup tool and its newfound support this week for OS X and its Time Machine backups, letting IT integrate OS X's native (and free) backups into an enterprisewide workflow. It's long been easier to back up Macs than PC, locally via an optionally encrypted backup drive or department ally via OS X Server. Now Macs can be backed up at enterprise scale.
it's not just Acronis. Because OS X Lion and Mountain Lion use the same management API as iOS, mobile management vendors AirWatch and MobileIron have been able to extend their mobile device management (MDM) tools to Macs. Thus, IT can manage everything from app permissions to encryption and password requirements using the tools they already have for iPhones and other mobile devices.
There are also Mac management plug-ins for Microsoft's System Center PC management server from JAMF and Dell (Quest), as well as multipatform management tools from Centrify, Dell (Kace), LANDesk, and Symantec (Altiris).
But all is not equal. For example, there's no Internet Explorer for OS X, so enterprise apps tied to that browser can't work on Macs outside a Windows VM. Honestly, any enterprise still building or buying IE-tied apps is foolish. In an era of mobile devices that don't have IE, the browser is a ball and chain that's sure to turn away users and customers. Plus, IE has the worst HTML5 compatiblity of any browser. IE is simply a dinosaur, and WebKit (used in Chrome, Opera, and Safari) is the new standard to write to.
Then there's Microsoft Office. It has a Mac version, though it's limited in its functionality, as has been the case forever. The biggest gaps are lack of support for Visual Basic apps and some complex Excel macros, which will keep many financial and accounting departments unable to use the native Mac versions. Specialty apps from Oracle, SAP, Intuit, SAS, and others are also Windows-only, so Macs will remain off-limits to them.
But most can, and now IT can more easily support them. Welcome to the brave new world of heterogeneous computing!
This article, "Macs dig in as standard business PCs," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Smart User blog. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.