It has been 16 years since Steve Jobs retook the reigns at Apple and reinvigorated the company as the epitome of coolness with its iconic iPod, iPhone and iPad. And while it can be argued that Apple didn't really push hard to dominate the enterprise, it is today experiencing a measure of success in the enterprise with its iPads and iPhones, and now to a lesser extent MacBook laptops - thanks, in part, to the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend.
The days when IT managers can hold their sway and dictate to users what technology they can use at work are coming to an end.
The change is partly attributed to senior management discovering that productivity is higher when employees are using technology familiar to them. The other factor is the increased attention being paid by enterprise software vendors to make available client-facing interfaces built around the familiar iOS/Mac OS X look-and-feel. Many companies will soon have a combination of Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Phone and Android stacks to support their infrastructure - in addition to Mac OS X and iOS.
For IT professionals, the transition to a mix environment of Windows and Macs is wrought with concerns around post-purchase warranty support, security and manageability. Thankfully, Apple does provide enterprise-grade support services via little-known AppleCare OS Support (AOSS) - a cross-platform, incident-based support package that covers much more than warranty issues: integration with existing IT systems, network configuration and administration, software installation and use, problem diagnosis, and Web application support. It spans all Apple hardware, plus OS X, OS X Server, and iOS, as well as Apple's entire suite of enterprise admin tools, such as the Configurator Utility for iOS device configuration.
The issue of security remains regardless of how closed or open an operating environment. Where Apple continues to lag is around built-in support for centralized and automated security management. Fortunately, third party management tools are available to do just these. However, this puts the burden on local system administrators and makes it more likely that vulnerabilities will persist, which include patches that are not installed and security settings that are not configured correctly.
This brings us to the other critical challenge that both user and IT must face - how to allow Mac users' access to applications and data that are purposely built for Microsoft Windows environment.
Virtualisation resolved this issue by emulating a separate hardware environment on your computer, allowing you to install a separate operating system. For example, software like Parallels for Mac is designed specifically to enable Mac users to seamlessly run both Windows and Mac OS X applications side-by-side, with as minimal support by IT as possible.
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