Why Apple Wants Microsoft To Dominate The Enterprise

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Some arguments about Apple never seem die despite the fact that reality has moved on. Arguments like the Mac not being compatible with Windows file sharing or disk formats and that all Apple products being inherently more expensive than any competitors. This morning, Computerworld’s Preston Gralla pulled several of these outdated arguments together to support his opinion that Apple would never unseat Microsoft in the enterprise.

Virtually every argument in this piece is easy to debunk with facts. What’s more important than responding to these outdated myths, however, is realizing that Apple doesn’t want to unseat Microsoft from its current place in the enterprise. Microsoft is actually doing a lot of enterprise heavy lifting for Apple.

Apple is enjoying unprecedented success in business and enterprise environments today. As I’ve said recently (both here at Cult of Mac and at Computerworld), the company has spent the past couple of years slowly shifting its enterprise strategy. It isn’t trying to dominate in business the way that Microsoft does. In fact, I’m quite sure Apple is happy to let Microsoft stay firmly planted in large tracts of enterprise real estate – particularly the real estate in the server closets and data centers.

Apple spent much of the last decade trying to get its enterprise-grade solutions into enterprise environments and data centers. Then Apple execs woke up, realized they could make more money selling iPhones, iPads, and Macs to business users just like they do to everyone else and let Microsoft and other companies do the heavy lifting. The company ditched its enterprise hardware, which never saw anything like the profit margins that it enjoys on its mass market products, and focused on making its platforms as enterprise friendly as possible… and has been laughing all the way to the bank.

Apple makes its money on hardware sales. So long its hardware and its OSes can integrate with Windows Server, Active Directory, Exchange, and other Unix and Linux platforms, Apple can sell to the enterprise market. As long as it focuses on making great products that work in business and have an app ecosystem that helps workers get their best work done faster, easier, and with fewer headaches, Apple doesn’t need to dominate the bulk of the enterprise… it just needs to be able to communicate with it.

Apple has even created a sizable cottage industry of providers that help enterprises integrate Apple’s Macs and iOS devices into their existing infrastructure. This means that businesses get a range of products with different price points and features. That helps each company select the best options for its needs and budget for integration, deployment, and ongoing management  (which can include or be limited to Apple’s free built-in Active Directory and Exchange support). This approach has created a plethora of choices well beyond what Apple could produce on its own. The results are increased business sales for Apple with other companies providing top notch support.

In short, Apple has no interest in becoming the enterprise top dog. Apple would much rather let Microsoft have that role and focus on delivering the best products it can to business users. That seems to working out pretty well for Apple and for business users.

As to debunking Preston Gralla – Apple does have enterprise sales and support teams and its sales to businesses are rarely “clandestine”; ultrabooks can barely compete with MacBook Air on price and may need help to undercut it; Windows 8 adoption as a whole isn’t guaranteed in an immediate time frame; WOA tablets may have Office but they also don’t have mature app ecosystems; Apple has an active cadre of enterprise deployment and management vendors; and many cloud services are largely platform agnostic.