Monday, October 31, 2011

Are Macs invading the enterprise?

"Better watch out, better not cry Macs are gonna make your IT guy sigh..."
Set to "Santa Claus is coming to town"

Usually I ignore the daily LinkedIn updates in my inbox informing me of the goings on of people who may know people that were once in the same state as a guy I sat next to in Burger King 1o years ago.  Wow, that whole 6 degrees of separation thing must be true...

So one of those strangers in my inbox was recommending a link to a story on Business Insider talking about the increase of Macs in the workplace.  The cliff notes version goes something like; Rich professional people are really creative and like Macs more than PC's and because of it they want to use them at work. 

I've actually seen evidence of this in action at my last employer.  The entire organization was run on PC platforms but there were a few Macs floating around as well as some Mac "servers" Which were glorified 1U server chassis' running Snow Leopard.  AKA, not a server.

True to the assertion of the article, our Mac users were in the executive suites and generally didn't want to do more than get their email and browse the web.  Anything else required running terminal server sessions a la' Parallels just to edit a word document. 

I remember on my first day I got called to the office of the regional manager whose only complaint was that the terminal server session and desktop wasn't like his Mac desktop.  Great first impression I made that day.

By the time I came along the Mac users already accepted the fact that we could never be a pure Mac shop mostly because everyone else had to do lots of boring uncreative stuff that didn't work on Macs.

I've written other articles about Macs in business environment so I won't belabor the point here.   Suffice it to say that as long as Apple treats all their products  as consumer devices (even if it says "pro" on it) with no regard for business  process, there will always be resistance by IT departments.  In this case, resistance is not futile because the bottom line is that Macs don't play well with most enterprise networks and applications.

This isn't meant to be derisive it's a simple statement of fact.  Remember that the sandbox that is Apple rejects conformity.  99% of enterprise networks are running non-Apple hardware and operating systems.  They conform to the evil IBM model because they have to, there isn't a good alternative.  Linux is still somewhere around the level of Windows 98 for the desktop and Macs have to use Microsoft office because they still don't have a good productivity suite. 

If you live in a sandbox, sometimes you gotta order out...

I'm sure the Mac enthusiast is thinking, "Well, the enterprise needs to change then"  Yes, maybe it does but right now it hasn't and honestly it can't.  As long as the bulk of corporate America doesn't produce anything more creative than a suggestive photo at the Christmas party nothing will change.

Until corporate America finally decides to drop its 19th century labor model and realize that people don't have to be under your nose to be productive, nothing can change.  Journalists, consultants and others not dependent on a corporate cubicle have figured out how to excel without the chains of corporate IT conformity.

That works out fine for them but if you go to work in a cubicle decorated with pictures of places you'd rather be don't expect the revolution any time soon. 

Mac's by their very design are non-conformist.  From the ambivalence of the file system organization to its lack of support for common enterprise applications Macs are meant to accommodate the user not vice versa.  That's the way Steve Jobs wanted it so don't expect it to change.

With the advent of cloud services, Google docs and online meeting options , it's possible that someday we may not have to waste years of our lives in pointless commutes to some dreary office building.  This is where Macs can become a viable option.  To make a Mac work for business you have to get it out of the office and give it an Icloud account. 

Apple is all about creativity and connectivity.  Everything from the sandbox is meant to work with everything else with an Apple logo.  Online experiences are supposed to be ABOUT the content not the process of getting TO the content. 

Enterprise IT doesn't work that way.  Enterprise IT has to control all the channels if for no other reason than to protect its information assets.  It's not about WANTING to control everything it's about HAVING to.  IT departments don't have a choice in the matter.  If given the choice without repercussion most IT guys would let the free for all happen if for no other reason than to be hated a little less. 

But we all know the corporate network would be in flames in 20 minutes.  It's human nature to be freeform which flies in the face of any IT organization trying to secure and provide reliable resources. 

So it is, so shall it be.

Macs are to Enterprise as Smartphone  is to Blackberry. 

Similar function, different methodology. 

There's nothing wrong with using a Mac if it fits your style of work but it's very design is guided by the premise to NOT be like a PC.  That's why they never seem to fit well into enterprise IT architectures. 

I'm not anti-Apple, I just know it doesn't work well in the prevailing IT construct. 

If the world decides to throw away the construct and do it Apples way, however, then it's conceivable that Apple could become a catalyst for finally abandoning an outdated work methodology that says work only happens in an office.

Article first published as Are Macs Invading the Enterprise? on Technorati.

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