Did Hell Freeze Over? Not Yet, But It's Getting Cold!

A couple of weeks ago, I proposed that I&O Professionals should repeal Mac prohibition and find ways to empower employees who are choosing Macs in increasing numbers and bringing them to the office. This was based on fresh 2011 research with Forrester clients, vendors and survey respondents, and concluded that not only were the numbers of Macs in enterprises increasing rapidly, but that the people choosing their own technology for the office, are often the highest performers.

Philip Elmer-DeWitt of Fortune's Apple 2.0 picked it up right away and made a very astute observation: that Forrester's stance on Macs in the enterprise had seemingly flip-flopped. His conclusion was based on a 2007 Forrester report on enterprise desktop trends in which Forrester observed: "Macs can be ignored for all but niche business groups." The conclusion was based on the data of the time, which showed Microsoft's enterprise desktop market share at 95%, but also noted that Apple's had doubled. We also observed in the same report that "Microsoft is not innovating," and "Vista is having a tough time in enterprises," based on data which showed slow uptake of Windows Vista and Internet Explorer 7.

My conclusion, with the benefit of another 4 years of IT history (a lifetime for many companies in this industry), is that the market was uncloaking the barrel of a smoking gun. In review, we can easily see that Apple fired a mortar round in 2006 when it released the first MacBook Pro based on the Intel architecture, followed by a series of controlled explosions with each new round they fired, culminating in the latest MacBook Air based on the Core i7 processor family and Sandy Bridge. However, in 2007 while the beginnings were just beginning to be evident in the data, the succeeding 4 years have made the trends undeniable.

When we compare this ballistics report with the fact that most enterprises skipped Vista in favor of 7, and extended their PC hardware refresh cycles to 5-7 years, we can see that many end users have been working on Windows XP (released in 2001) and outdated hardware for a long time -- perhaps too long. Employees with the money to buy their own computers for the office have been doing just that. The industry is calling it consumerization. I've been jokingly calling it insurrection, though there is more than a grain of truth to the characterization.

The real takeaway should be that the rise of Macs in the enterprise is a symptom of a much larger issue, because in fact the data also shows high demand for Windows 7 (of course demand for Macs has grown much faster). The real issue then is that several factors have come together to create a situation where employees often have better computing hardware at home than they do at work, and they are taking big steps to correct this imbalance. Further, that more of these people are choosing Macs than ever before, because they perceive a satisfying overall experience. In our follow-up to the initial report, we will explore the data and specific approaches for enabling Macs in more detail.