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The Apple Enterprise Invasion

Erik Frieberg

By Erik Frieberg, VP of Marketing, End-User Computing, VMware

Microsoft Windows has dominated enterprise desktops for close to three decades but it appears its reign is coming to an end. As BYOPC and BYOD continue to transform the enterprise, Macs have become a popular and preferred option compared to Windows PCs. However, complex questions and challenges have risen around the support of these two very different platforms.

Since business computing has very unique requirements with legacy Windows desktop infrastructure and application ecosystem, we decided to dig a little deeper to try and understand what IT administrators think about the growing heterogeneous environment.

As a result, VMware commissioned a survey of 376 IT professionals conducted by Dimensional Research to assess the current state of enterprise desktops and created a report titled “The Apple Enterprise Invasion.” We are releasing the results for the first time today and they clearly show that Windows is losing its grip on the enterprise.

End-User Preferences

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the results is that Windows is no longer the platform of choice in the enterprise with users overwhelmingly preferring Macs. User preference is the top reason given by IT administrators as to why their organization supports Macs with 73 percent of IT administrators identifying it as the main driver.

Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 10.34.41 AM

As a result, it should come as no surprise that the study found that 66 percent of businesses are already using Macs in the workplace today. But as we all know, end-users will work around corporate IT if they don’t get their way but the study found that a large majority of companies – more than 70 percent – officially support Macs as a corporate endpoint.

In addition, Windows PCs clearly have a perception problem with the top three justifications from employees for wanting a Mac being:

  1. Macs are easier to use (73 percent)
  2. Macs are cooler (52 percent)
  3. The Mac display is better than Windows (42 percent)

While employees clearly prefer Macs, there are challenges from an IT perspective that Macs must overcome before they can replace Windows PCs in the enterprise.

IT Perspectives

Although end-users think Macs are easier to use, IT administrators have a different perspective with 75 percent who feel that Macs are not easier to support than Windows PCs. And contrary to popular opinion, 75 percent of IT administrators said that Macs do not offer increased security advantages.

Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 10.35.58 AM

Adding to the challenge, many critical business applications cannot run on Macs today because they were designed for Windows. In fact, 64 percent of IT administrators indicated that none or only some of their enterprise applications run on Macs today.

Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 10.37.02 AM

When considering Macs for use in the enterprise, the top capabilities that are most valuable to IT administrators are all related to productivity and security:

  1. Ability to run Microsoft Office on a Mac (59 percent)
  2. Ability to enable secure access to enterprise applications (59 percent)
  3. Ability to run Windows on a Mac (41 percent)

As you can see, supporting a new OS platform is not as easy as one might think. Application support and compatibility issues are not things that end-users think about but they are critical for IT departments to fully assess and consider.

Bridging the Gap

Fortunately, virtual desktops can serve as a helpful tool to bridge the gap between two disparate operating systems and it’s not just VMware claiming this. The survey found that 89 percent of IT professionals stated that it would be valuable to have a virtual desktop that can run Windows on a Mac and 91 percent of respondents valued the ability to run the same virtual desktop on multiple platforms such as Windows, Mac and Linux.

Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 10.37.42 AM

Virtual desktops allow organizations to standardize on the Windows platform and support legacy business critical applications without any interruption to business while still giving employees the option to select the computer of their choice.

For companies, the choice is very clear – they need to respond to end-user demand for Macs in the enterprise or they will find it difficult to recruit and retain the best talent on the market. They also need to provide IT administrators the tools to support a heterogeneous desktop environment otherwise there will be disruption to the business. Virtual desktops such as Fusion Professional can be a tremendous help for companies in this situation.

27 thoughts on “The Apple Enterprise Invasion

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  3. A. Davis

    Maybe after seeing this someone at VMWare will wake up and give us a true VMWare Client for the Mac. For those of us with older versions of ESX, we still have to fire up a Windows VM to manage ESX. And even the newer ESX with the web mgmt interface isn’t 100% the same as the native client and lacks many of the features. Please VMWARE… wake up and give us Mac users the ability to 100%, fully manage ESX without having to use Windows. Related, for those of us that have no need of Windows at all in our organization, how ’bout the ability to use all the features of VMware/ESX yet without requiring a Windows OS for vCenter Server. Stop forcing us to use Windows… please.

    1. G. Sosa

      VMware Client for Mac? No way that would make sense for VMware now that they are moving to the web client. They will not even add any features at all to the old Windows client (C#) any more. All development will be focused on the web client.
      I agree with you it’s not perfect yet and it still has a lot of room for improvement but that’s the direction VMware is taking wether we like it or not.
      I guess upgrading that old ESX environment would be a good idea 🙂

  4. Greg Lamb

    I think there may be more to fact of admins commenting that OS X is not as easy or the same to manage than Windows. As with our environment, you will likely find that the may not be easy to manage because the enterprise has purchased enterprise applications and storage with only Windows in mind. Trying to manage OS X in an environment where the enterprise hasn’t installed the infrastructure to cater for cross platform OS’s is where a lot of the problems are. If the enterprise is set up for all platforms, historically we have found that OS X/MacOS has always required less effort to support.

  5. No, Google.

    The Windows empire is finally burning and there seems to be no way to put the fire out.

  6. Oracle Heretic

    I live by two rules with respect to platforms:

    1. Where does my data belong? Answer: In the cloud.
    2. How much of my data belongs in the cloud? Answer: All of it.

    If you do that, platforms don’t matter. For this reason, I think this issue is now largely moot. The Mac has traditionally been better at things like graphics, video production, etc. (I should know, as I have a 17″ MacBook Pro sitting next to me as I write this on my Lenovo Thinkpad). Certainly, that will persist for a while. However, as more and more production capability moves into the cloud (including Adobe), that will decline.

    Eventually, the platform simply won’t matter very much. And we are not far from that point in my view.

    1. darwin

      Completely wrong.
      The cloud has many security issues not least of which is government.
      The mac operating system matters and the quality of Mac apps matters.
      Where data has nothing to do with either of these things.

  7. jforbes

    Sorry but this is nonsense “While employees clearly prefer Macs” – you don’t know that- you didn’t ask employees. You asked “IT administrators” why they support Macs. But it could be they are only supporting Macs for a tiny % of their users. You can’t draw conclusions about user preference when you haven’t asked them”!

  8. Bish

    Valid points above me. Here’s another – remote desktops make admin much easier, but defeat the point of BYOD – your OS *is* your device, just as much if not more so than the shiny brushed alu clamshell it lives in. End users generally want to use their devices because they’re familiar – slapping on an ugly corporate desktop (or even just wrappers for applications) removes that familiarity and returns the user to a state of uncertainty, since they have to learn how to use the unfamiliar system.

    The cloud answer above is right for most things Office based, but many corporations still stubbornly cling to legacy database systems for which any kind of cross-compatibility will always be a major headache. Of course, ditch the old system and migrate it to the cloud and the problem’s solved, but you’re then solving the problem for a handful of Apple aficionados but creating a new headache for all the other Windows users, who’ll have to learn the new system just so the Apple folks (and one or two Linux geeks, or parents of Linux geeks) can play along.

    We admins are rarely this masochistic, so instead embrace the Remote Desktop solution, which makes our lives easier, even if it doesn’t actually make the users happy, and leads to endless attempts to explain the difference between the remote and local desktops to end users who still consider computers mysterious voodoo boxes.

    Why am I even here, given you guys sell us exactly that!? The Guardian sent me, and I’m bored!


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  17. darwin

    PC admins like Windows because they know it and precisely because it takes more work to support thus validating their jobs.

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  20. Greg Kiker

    Most of us who use VMware are intelligent people. This is not an intelligent post. It smacks of bias and nonsensical data to come to a conclusion like you have. We run a business, we choose what OS and systems the end users uses. I don’t care what they “want” to use. I am not going to spend 2-3x the amount on a system to make them “happy”. If someone is petty enough to turn a great job down because they cannot use our OS, we really don’t need or want them. I have also found that most people who would turn down a job because of this do not know how to use windows and again, because of their attitude to not take a day to learn the most popular and most used OS in the world, they are not the caliber of employee we are looking for.

  21. Eric Sanders

    Vast amounts of information is missing here for the giant leaps to unfounded conclusions by media picking up this story. The data we are provided with does *not* say “73% of users prefer Macs”! Here’s a couple things we don’t know, for starters:

    – How many of the 376 “IT pros” (whatever that means) answered the target question (given that it starts with the qualifier “If your organization..”? It could have been as low as 37 of 51 respondents saying “User preference”. At that ratio the report could have said “Nearly 10% of IT Professionals Say Their Users Prefer Macs” — but that probably wouldn’t make as many headlines, would it?

    – Survey respondents were asked to list “up to 3 reasons why”, from a list of 5 reasons, plus “Other” or “I don’t know” — and “User Preference” was selected by nearly 3 out of 4. Survey design matters. If you “ask” for 3 reasons, most respondents will list 3. If you assume most won’t choose “I don’t know” or “Other”, 60% of the respondents will select “User Preference” if they all randomly selected from the 5 options. Frankly, given the apparent question design, I’m surprised the answer only received 73%.

    – Example of how easy it is to get an answer into the 73% category: One C-level in some department buys a personal MacBook Air and brings it in to me asking “how do I get my email on this?”. I show them how to launch Safari and create a shortcut to our OWA portal. Boom. I’ve now “unofficially supported a Mac in my organization”. Declare the Apple Enterprise Invasion!

    – Finally, let’s look at the “usefulness of virtual desktop” question (undoubtedly the key point for a VMware end-user computing marketer). 9 of 10 would find some value in a “boot anywhere” single virtual desktop, with almost half finding such a tool “very valuable”. Ok, quick question for you…what virtual desktop are they going to want to be booting in those 91% of environments? Yep! WINDOWS. So, at it’s very worst, this *might* be bad news for Dell or Lenovo and the crappy business laptops they’ve been churning out for decades — but it is certainly not, in any way, a sign of the “burning of the Windows empire” as suggested above.


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