Gartner: Macs invading the enterprise

Look out, information technology managers: Macs are invading the enterprise, and though you may have been able to slam the door on them in the past, the era of "no Macs need apply" is coming to an end in the Windows-dominated work world.

That was the spirit of Gartner analyst Michael Silver's talk at a Gartner conference in Orlando, Florida, as he shared the consultancy's outlook on what exactly is going on in the enterprise desktop.

The enterprise is still a Windows PC-dominated universe, he said. But Windows is not only being challenged by newer tablet technologies, a subtle shift is also happening that sees users demanding Macs. IT managers can no longer turn that request down so easily—and probably shouldn't anyway, he said.

"[The desktop] is still 90-something percent Windows," said Silver, adding that "thin clients will have 4 percent or so by the end of the year." At most, there might be a 5 percent installed base of Macs, which IT managers traditionally regarded as an additional management burden over the Windows PCs they must carefully tend for updates and patch management.

But as the consumerization of IT has its impact, and as more companies find themselves not automatically saying "no" to new devices—especially when the company sales stars or the young new hires demand them as part of the job—the IT department can no longer wish the Mac away. A Gartner survey found 60 percent of enterprises still "limit" Macs, but more and more are "embracing" them. And 64 percent said they will likely allow more Macs into their businesses over the next few years.

"It used to be, 'How do we keep Macs out,'" Silver said. There's the view that Macs cost more money in terms of hardware, software and IT support, something Gartner says is less the case today than in the past. In fact, on average today's Macs come out slightly ahead in terms of costs, according to Gartner.

On average, the hardware and software costs for Macs run $1,622, compared to $1,513 for Windows PCs. Software vendors like to charge slightly more for the Mac, Silver noted. The average IT labor cost for Windows is $781 while the Mac is $636, though he adds that companies deploying Macs seem to have widely different experiences here, with some easily managing Macs and others finding it "horrendously expensive." Administration costs, tallied separately, were exactly the same for a Windows PC or a Mac.

When it comes to Macs, "expect the demand, and make plans for it," advised Silver, saying the era when IT managers could willfully cross Macs off the list appears to be coming to a close, even though Apple itself does little to cultivate the image of the Mac as an enterprise-ready system. But the upper echelons of the business world are now asking for them, and "we're seeing organizations having to say 'yes' to these folks." In fact, Silver added, "Saying 'no' could be a career-ending decision."

Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security.

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