This week's BW cover story puts Apple's approach to business users squarely in the spotlight, as Peter Burrows captures both the remarkable surge of employee-driven Mac purchasing for the enterprise (often triggered by staff who are Mac users at home, or as I sometimes refer to them, "iMullets" -- business in the front office, party in the home office) and what he characterizes as the mostly-benign neglect of the corporate market by Apple's sales force and support infrastructure.
More and more companies are letting Mac installations out of the creative/graphics and video
gulag walled garden, some comparatively large concerns like Juniper Networks are implementing 'open choice' on platforms for employees, and a very few biggies have even declared a new all-Mac era in desktop deployments. Though marketshare gains for the Mac have been driven overwhelmingly by consumer purchasing, at some point that platform choice begins to leak back into the 9-5 window.
While Burrows hits it right on the nose with the factors that are accelerating Mac deployment (beyond employee choice and the iPhone + iPod halo effect, the Intel platform, Vista's lackluster prospects and virtualization are key drivers) and on some of the reasons companies might hold back (hiring additional Mac-centric IT resources and a lack of extensive choice in the product line), I think he overstates the degree to which Apple plays it hands-off with enterprise users. Yes, some of the most critical resources for Mac IT are external communities and not Apple-managed, but the sales force and professional consulting arms at Apple have been quietly toiling away for years to improve the standing of Macs at the office. Big-iron vendors like Centrify & Likewise are helping Macs integrate into corporate networks, and even the Microsoft Mac BU is working hard to make Entourage a best-of-breed Exchange client for the Mac.
Just the fact of IT conference tracks at WWDC and Macworld Expo for the past couple of years, featuring Apple engineers and product managers alongside their customers, shows that on some level Apple has been grappling with the needs of the enterprise market even if it's not the top priority at One Infinite Loop. With the planned introduction of the iPhone 2.0 firmware -- which tackles nearly every pain point of enterprise customers with a vigor worthy of the Other Steve -- it does seem that some Apple execs have begun to drink the Big Business Kool-Aid.
Thanks to Arik + everyone who sent this in