Macs In the Enterprise Are Dead (and Chrome OS Killed Them)
You've probably read one of the many articles going around recently about how you should be preparing to incorporate Macs into your network environment. Save yourself the bother: Google's announcement of its Chrome OS last month sounded the death knell for the prospects of Macs in the enterprise.
Apple has never really made much of an impact in the business world, where value for money and productivity count for more than stylish good looks (i.e. shiny white cases) and free movie making software.
In part that's because PCs are far cheaper than Macs, and perhaps also because IT departments can choose the exact hardware specifications they need for end users' PCs . That's in stark contrast to the Orwellian, 1984-esque world of Apple, in which purchasers are forced to select from a severely limited range of options that Apple deigns to offer. In other words, IT departments running PCs can dare to be different, making up their own minds about the hardware they need for the job in hand instead of looking enviously at forbidden fruit while swallowing whatever Big Brother Apple decides to feed them.
But the main reason enterprises have favored PCs in the past is because PCs run the desktop software they need to use. Productivity software, certainly, but also bespoke business apps that need a stable platform to run on. Apple has never been a sensible choice for most enterprises because of its habit of jumping from one processor architecture to another every few years, obsoleting most of the software that runs on its machines every time it does so.
But Google's Chrome OS announcement - along with Microsoft's Azure and Office Web Apps initiatives and many other cloud related projects - all underline the fact that desktop hardware and the operating systems that run on them are rapidly becoming irrelevant. Microsoft realizes this - hence its work on Azure and Office Web apps. The Linux world realizes this, and will likely benefit from all the servers running the open source operating system that most cloud endeavor will require. And Google clearly gets it: whether or not it is successful, Chrome OS, or whatever it evolves into, is intended to help users access cloud services from a , secure, low cost hardware. It's only Apple that doesn't get it yet - but that's no surprise from the company that only realized that Intel processors are "where it's at" years after just everyone else.
So here's the problem: Apple is essentially a hardware company, yet fancy hardware becomes irrelevant when all you need is something simple which can run a browser. Why would an enterprise spend $2499 on a Mac Pro or $1499 on an iMac that looks like a table lamp when a $200 Linux netbook will run Firefox or Safari just as well? These days netbooks come in white, anyway,
What about Apple's operating system? In an enterprise computing environment that looks destined to become increasingly cloud-based, does OS X offer any compelling benefits? The GUI? It's certainly visually attractive, but while pretty colors and dancing icons may attract some consumers and graphic designers, they alone are not enough to justify the price of adopting the OS in the enterprise. Stability? OS X is certainly more stable than Windows, but why should an enterprise pay for OS X when it could have the ultra-stable Linux for free? Why choose an operating system that's only "based on" UNIX, when it can have the real McCoy? Security? Who in their right mind would pay a premium to run OS X machines in their enterprise on security grounds when Apple has such a poor record of patching bugs in a timely fashion? While the Linux community gets bugs patched with admirable efficiency, Apple increasingly looks like it lacks the resources to tend to OS X. Who would you trust to guard your corporate jewels - the energetic and security-conscious Linux community or an electronics company preoccupied with phones, music players and other consumer toys?
The more you think about it, the less attractive Macs in the enterprise become. So do yourself a favor: forget about adopting them on your network, and use the time you save to go do something insanely great instead.