Big businesses take a small bite of the Apple

Apple products are making their way into corporate America, but the numbers are still small overall as Apple itself remains focused on consumers

DiDio calls the management tools issue "the biggest impediment to deploying Macs en masse in the enterprise." And she's not the only one who thinks so. "The tools for managing a large population of Macs are hard to come by. That's the truth," says a Fortune 100 IT executive who declined to be named but says he has examined the options.

Such sentiments are what convinced Mac software vendors to form the Enterprise Desktop Alliance a few years ago. "There are good tools available for integrating Macs into enterprises standardized on Windows," argues EDA President Reid Lewis. The challenge is to educate IT managers on what's available, he says.

Deloitte's White says it isn't a question of whether you can integrate Macs but how much work it takes to get the job done: "In a large enterprise, at scale, can you get the job done? Yes. Can I do it without a lot of additional skills, capabilities, and tools? No." Expect more integration work with Macs, he says.

When it comes to interoperability with existing tools for managing Windows environments, the options are even more limited. The tools are enterprise-class, says Charles Edge, lead engineer at 318 Inc., an Apple-authorized reseller and professional services provider. But he acknowledges that "they're not as well integrated with tools for other platforms as they could be."

Many of the same issues come up when trying to manage enterprise apps, enterprise app stores, and mobile data on iPhones and iPads, says White. "Those are workable today but not a slam dunk. It requires significant integration work and control frameworks."

A matter of focus

From Apple's perspective, the enterprise is a niche market, and a very small one at that. Shipments of Macs to enterprise customers, for example, amounted to just 3 percent of all Mac sales in the U.S. last year, according to IDC.

The company's discontinuation of its Xserve server line last year further underscores the point that Apple's focus remains on its bread and butter -- the consumer -- and that there are limits as to how far it's willing to go to satisfy the demands of enterprise customers.

"Apple doesn't want to change its business to accommodate enterprises," says Silver. "They want to sell to the enterprise with their current business model. And to some extent, that's working."

For now, at least, it's the enterprise, not Apple, that has to bend. Demand from users of iPads and iPhones, and a push to allow users to bring their own computers to work, requires some level of accommodation by IT. "The reality is that most companies are not going to have a choice. They're going to have to work with that business model," says USAA's Schwartz.

But accommodation has its limits. To Kamer at St. Luke's, Apple isn't an enterprise partner the way that companies like Microsoft and HP are. "Apple is changing the game on how we deal with them as a vendor due to the popularity of their devices." But, he adds, "this is why we do not plan on purchasing their devices for the enterprise. Bring-your-own-computer is the only way we can see them being integrated. But even this has many challenges from a management and security standpoint."

This story, "Big businesses take a small bite of the Apple" was originally published by Computerworld.

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