The Business Case for the Mac

March 24, 2022 / Ben Bajarin

Key Takeaways:

  • Apple silicon is fueling increased interest in Macs by business
  • A growing ecosystem of third parties are making it easier than ever to support Macs
  • The door for Macs is opening, but not yet fully open

As a part of our broad research into the hardware and software tools that make up critical parts of employee experiences in businesses, we also looked deeply into the opportunity for Macs in the enterprise. Apple has had an interesting relationship with the enterprise. Most, if not all, IT professionals would tell you Apple does very little to satisfy the needs of most large IT organizations. Complaints often arise over support, hardware repair, device management, security protocols, etc. This friction has often been more the barrier for large IT organizations to fully embrace Macs in their companies than the higher price of Macs vs. many competing Windows notebooks and desktops.

Despite Apple’s entirely different and much more consumer-minded approach to the enterprise, Macs find themselves in use in many business settings. I spoke with several IT decision-makers at several companies, large and small, that had not fully embraced Macs, and even they admitted anyone at a certain level can get a Mac if they want. Even if a Mac is not on the menu for employees broadly, Macs are unofficially off-menu at most corporations as executives or other high-ranking employees can often get them.

Apple Silicon Is Fueling the Business Case for the Mac
Since the release of Apple Silicon, Apple has emphasized Mac’s growth and increased interest by enterprise customers to deploy Macs more broadly. Apple Silicon has undoubtedly contributed to Mac’s growth and enterprise interest. Since COVID and the supply issue Windows PCs faced, IT managers welcomed anything they could get their hands on, including Macs. Of course, small businesses have always been more accepting of Macs, mainly because they have a less formalized IT structure or rely more on third-party support, which they can pick and choose to include Mac support. As our conversations with Mac support vendors confirmed, the footprint in small and medium businesses is broader than most people think.

We have been interested in answering whether the environment for Macs in the enterprise could turn a corner and see more widespread acceptance by IT organizations and officially offer them to all employees. In our most recent study of employee experience in a business setting, we discovered plenty of appetite by employees who wish their organizations would give them the options to use Macs. It was also interesting to notice that we found a correlation between panelists who were not planning to leave their job and their use of Mac at work.

There is mounting evidence that Macs are net positive to an organization when offered to employees. In 2019, a Forrester report revealed that the total cost of ownership is lower with Macs than with PCs in many cases. Since 2019, and the addition of Apple Silicon, you can make a strong case that the current Mac offerings have even more longevity and fewer issues than Macs in 2019, meaning the total cost of ownership story may be even stronger now. Forrester, even updated their report to reflect the better total economics with M1 Macs. In talking with several large organization IT decision-makers who deployed Macs, they found fewer support tickets by Mac owners and generally fewer issues overall with employees on Macs than with other platforms. In some cases, IT managers I spoke with indicated Macs even being easier to manage when Apple’s platforms, iPhone/iPad, and Mac were managed separately from Windows and Android devices using third-party services like Jamf or Kandji.

The more I talked to IT managers in organizations with a hybrid OS environment, the more it became clear there are very strong opinions on whether management should be done with a single pane of glass or OS-specific tools. The debate was around a single pane of glass where one management software platform managed devices of all platforms, or whether it was better to manage Macs/iPhones/iPads separately in their environment built specifically to manage iOS and macOS. For example, both Jamf and Kandji offer dedicated platforms for IT to handle the MDM of Macs and customize their internal process, software, and security measures around Macs. Interestingly, I found larger enterprises tended to skew toward the separate management platforms of Macs and Windows devices, and smaller businesses tended to lean toward the single pane of glass solution.

A Growing Ecosystem of Mac Management Software and Services
Where this environment starts to reveal potential momentum for Macs is the number of third parties building specific solutions to manage Macs. I mentioned Jamf and Kandji, but other companies like Moysle and Jumpcloud are rising in popularity by making it extremely easy for organizations to add Macs to their companies. Apple’s lack of a first-party solution to manage their devices has always been criticism from IT and the fuel for the perspective that Apple doesn’t care about the enterprise. Microsoft offers robust tools to IT departments to manage Windows devices. But companies like Jamf, Kandji, Moysle, and Jumpcloud have risen up and done what Apple has not for larger enterprises.

The recent announcement of Apple Business Essentials is the first step by Apple to provide management services of Apple hardware. ABE includes some important features beyond just MDM like storage, support, and repairs. However, it has some limits as far as how much it can help Apple grow its Mac market share in the enterprise. First, it is only for smaller businesses, which I believe is smart given the volume of small businesses deploying Macs. Second, Apple Business Essentials is great if you are 100% Mac organization, but that is not exactly common. Search any organization, large and small, and you will always find finance people who will never give up their Windows PCs. Given the insight we found that small businesses favor the single pane of glass management solution which creates a potential challenge for ABE to scale broadly.

Lastly, a rising number of third parties offering IT outsourcing or white glove assistance helps businesses large and small get up and running, bringing Macs into their organization. The growing third-party ecosystem for supporting Macs in enterprises would not be flourishing if there weren’t increasing demand to bring Macs into their organization.

The Door is Opening for the Mac but Not Fully
The business market is crucial for Apple’s Mac business to see double-digit growth consistently. And the fuel for the growth for Mac is larger enterprises. Small businesses have much more open arms for Macs, but large enterprises are where the scale of Apple’s Mac business can be found. Apple is the oddity amongst all the top notebook/desktop OEMs where the vast majority of Apple’s Mac sales are to consumers. But in the case of HP, Dell, and Lenovo, the vast majority of their sales are to enterprises. Most of them sell more PCs to enterprises than Apple sells Macs in total each quarter.

IDC estimates Macs have roughly 24% share within US enterprise installed base of notebooks/desktops. Of course, a good portion of that is likely small businesses, but it demonstrates the headroom for growth the Mac has among businesses, which would fuel the growth of the Mac business.

Apple still has hurdles to clear with large businesses. The main one is hardware servicing/repair. Other hurdles include volume discounts, multi-country purchases, and organizations with legacy software/platforms that are not yet optimized for Macs. There is also a knowledge gap, even if perceived, for many IT departments. Lastly, in many large organizations, there are stringent security protocols that have been established and standardized around Windows. Apple has made great strides in evolving macOS to meet these security protocols, but the IT decision-maker is no longer the sole customer Apple has to appeal to. The security department has entered the scene and has increasing influence in what hardware is deployed in their enterprise.

Ultimately, our research revealed the environment for Macs is drastically different than it was three to four years ago. An ecosystem has emerged and matured that is breaking down barriers that used to exist for Macs to be fully embraced by businesses. As a result, the Mac business has room to grow if Apple continues to make meaningful advancements with macOS it could only be a matter of time before the widespread acceptance of Macs in business.

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