Macs in the Enterprise

In every O’Reilly conference and event I’ve been to, the number of Mac laptops is disproportionately high: I would say at least around a quarter (if not more) in most of our conferences. The most common answer I hear is that the Mac combines an elegant UI, a suite of useful software, and a Unix command line. O’Reilly does tilt towards the “alpha geek” crowd, but one wonders if mainstream companies are beginning to allow Apple products (including iPhones) in their networks.

Business Week’s most recent cover story is on the growing interest in Apple computers among corporate users. I was expecting the article to include some estimates for the corporate market, or at least the results of a recent survey. It was after all the cover story of the U.S. edition.

I do recognize that estimating Apple’s share of the corporate market is difficult. Apple itself does not provide corporate sales estimates and according to the article, it doesn’t even have much of a sales force dedicated to the space. What Apple provides are sales for Desktops and Portable PC’s:
Starting Q3-2006, the share of portables jumped to 60% and has remained slightly above that number. Apple began moving to Intel processors in Q1-2006 and by August 2006 the entire line of Apple PC’s had switched over. The graph for revenues (Desktops vs. Portables) is essentially the same. In Q2-2008, portables grew 61%, compared to the prior year, and now account for close to 2 in 3 units sold.

As the author points out, Apple’s secrecy and large margins may hamper it in the corporate market, where buyers prefer transparency and bargains. Overseas, particularly in the developing world, Macs are too expensive for most. With the introduction of expensive models (e.g. MacBook Air) the article estimates that the average price for a Mac is now about $1,526: too pricey even for large American companies, unless of course Apple is willing to forgo their fat margins and negotiate. Why would Apple want that when consumers seem willing to pay for their products? With more and more tasks moving to the cloud, expensive Macs will be even harder to justify. So while more companies might be willing to allow Macs, I would be surprised if Apple makes inroads in the corporate space.

My pet peeve: MS-Excel 2008 for the Mac is quite unstable, and I think the 2004 version is superior. In the corporate market a stable and easy-to-use spreadsheet is a must.

If you work for a large company they probably tightly limit what machines you can use. Luckily for me, O’Reilly allows the use of any (Mac, Windows, Linux, BSD, …) computer.