Apples in the Enterprise

The early November news had to rock the old computing industry titans: now Citibank and Bank of America both are eyeballing possible adoption of the iPhone. This comes on top of an already extraordinary year for Apple which, little by little, is sneaking into the biggest businesses.

At Citrix Systems, for instance, employees who want more choice than the standard corporate offerings can opt to take a $2100 Citrix check to be spent on the computing gear the worker craves and many are selecting Apples, said Chris Fleck, vice president of community and solutions. “Bring Your Own Computer is catching on in business and the big beneficiary seems to be Apple.”

At television powerhouse NBC-U, many employees are offered a choice of computers that includes an Apple option, said Marc Siry, a senior vice president, who added he is personally awaiting delivery of a brand-new MacBook Air.

At Intel, too, “we allow employees to bring in their own computers, Apples included,” said Dave Buchholz, principal engineer, Intel IT.

“Apple is making an entrance into the enterprise not through the enterprise’s choice but by their employees personal decisions,” added Steve Breiseth, a partner in Reston, VA-based IT consulting firm.

Evidence is that the onslaught will continue. Per data collected by mobility expert Good Technology, over 50 percent of enterprise activations of mobile phones were for devices running Apple iOS in the period June through September.

Still more persuasive are the results from the most recent ITIC/Sunbelt Survey of Apple use in business, which found:

  • Eight out of 10 organizations said they are ‘more likely to allow more users to deploy Macintoshes as their enterprise desktops’ in 2010-2011, up from 68 percent in the 2009 survey.”
  • “The number of organizations reporting large complements of Macs and OS X 10.x in their organizations continues to climb. Some seven percent of respondents said they have more than 250 Macs in their enterprise. In the 2008 survey, only two percent had more than 250 Macs”

Don’t assume, however, that the enterprise is going Apple. Adoption has been slow, clarified Fleck, and Intel’s Buchholz added that “people don’t want to replace devices, they want to add companion devices. Devices are becoming niche usage models.” That is, many executives do not want to abandon a laptop in favor of an iPad, or throw out a Windows 7 desktop computer in favor of a Mac. What they want is all of the above but deployed for specific tasks.

Is the rise of Apple in big business inevitable?

So it seems. iPhones continue to win enterprise fans, iPads remain atop the wish-list of must-owns, and the inevitable trickle down into actual Mac adoption is definitely occurring in business. The big complications — and there definitely are some — of deploying Apples in enterprise come down to two main issues, said the experts:

  • How to access important data and apps that run only on Windows devices? Citrix’s Fleck points to tools developed by his company such as the Citrix Receiver for iPad that let Apple-powered workers effectively do work in a Windows environment. Fleck’s contention: more special purpose tools that help Apple users bridge the gap into enterprise IT will necessarily have to be developed if Apples continue to win increasing enterprise usage.
  • Perhaps more crucially: how to provide security for non-Windows devices and how to protect the data on them? Mark Bregman, CTO of Symantec, explained how his company is responding to an enterprise that no longer has consistent device standardization: “For many years our focus was on protecting the PC. Now there are many types of devices. We are shifting focus from protecting the end point device to protecting the information. We are extending our view of security beyond the device.” His bigger point: Apples (and Symantec itself recently began offering iPhones as an option to its employees) are no big deal in terms of security once the enterprise understands it has to protect information, not devices.

“Device proliferation is what it is,” said Bregman. “It’s just is something we all have to learn to deal with.”

“There’s an ongoing acceptance that people want to use the devices they prefer,” agreed Gary Curtis, chief technology strategy at Accenture and whose research is emphatic that Millennials — the youngest hires — are determined to bring their technologies of choice to work.

And that means say hello to Apples in enterprise because, really, it’s too late to erect a high wall to keep them out.

Robert McGarvey – As a busy freelance writer for more than 30 years, Rob McGarvey has written over 1500 articles for many of the nation’s leading publications―from Reader’s Digest to Playboy and from the NY Times to Harvard Business Review. McGarvey covers CEOs, business, high tech, human resources, real estate, and the energy sector. A particular specialty is advertorial sections for many top outlets including the New York Times, Crain’s New York, and Fortune Magazine.