iPhone Envy, Mac Disdain

8 Nov 2015

Corporate IT departments have had a long-standing problem with Apple products. While the Apple II was never really a factor, the introduction of the Mac line in 1984 spurred the first requests from users to get their hands on the first mass market PC with a graphical user interface. Of course in those days IT was calling all the shots when it came to computing and despite the fact that PCs were still running DOS (with the user interface from hell), IT figured it knew what was good for them. A few Macs did manage to sneak in to the graphic arts department where the PC simply couldn't cut it, but for the rest of the enterprise, IT maintained the Maginot Line against the Mac.

Fast forward a few years and Apple introduced the iPhone into an enterprise mobility market dominated by another IT-endorsed option, the BlackBerry. This was 2007, and a couple of things had changed. First, the IT department's hold on technology was slipping across the board as companies like Salesforce.com were selling directly to sales executives. The other factor was that users now had considerably more experience with technology, and while the enormous technical leap forward that the iPhone represented was obvious to them even if it wasn't to the geniuses in IT.

Time and again we have heard the stories of C-Level execs marching into IT and demanding that their iPhone get connected to the corporate email server. While the early iterations of the iOS lacked some critical security features, in time those were addressed by Apple and the iPhone has now become the most popular enterprise smartphone with a 70% to 75% share of the market. BlackBerry still holds a small sliver in the financial services and other highly regulated areas, but Android gets most of the rest though it seems to be far better accepted by IT users than by the organization at large.

While the iPhone is thriving in enterprises, the Mac has not had that same level of adoption, nor does it receive the same level of support from the IT industry at large. We are seeing more and more Mac Books showing up at industry conferences, though their use on corporate desktop remains minimal. However, in SMB Macs are far more widely used because they really are more intuitive to use and in that SMB environment real users as opposed to IT zealots get to choose what solutions work best. Also a lot of those users who are saddled with a desktop Windows PC at work are working on a Mac when they get home. However, we Mac users still get short shrift when it comes to support.

What got me thinking about this was the ShoreTel Road Show that I attended in New York City last week. With the introduction of the ShoreTel Connect product and (at long last) the integration of ShoreTel's premises and cloud-based Sky offerings I figured it was time to get an update on one of the few traditional PBX companies that has a positive story to tell.

The one analogy (and the one image) that came up repeatedly was the iPhone, and rightly so. To the UC&C industry, it seems that the iPhone has come to represent the standard by which other user experiences are measured. Not that those UC&C user experiences necessarily match up, but at least they are aiming at the right target. And while each of the UC&C vendors has delivered workable iOS and Android and in some cases even Windows Phone mobile UC clients, their lack of adoption clearly testifies to the fact that the users see absolutely little value in them for anything but possibly participating in conferences.

The good news is that the vendors have put some effort into making iOS and Android applications that work, but they don't seem to be putting that same level of effort into their Mac support. Microsoft is probably the worst offender. The company's Skype for Business client for iOS is rock solid while its Mac client is nothing short of a rolling disaster. It's not just UC&C vendors that treat Macs like second class citizens. Our local cable company, Cablevision, has great mobile apps for iOS and android, but the Mac version flat out doesn't work.

Admittedly, with Apple holding a mere 14.8% share of the PC market in the third quarter of 2015, the vendors don't have an overpowering urge to pump up their bets on OS X. However, the Mac started as a revolutionary product and it remains a very solid one and with far fewer security concerns - at least for now. And I still remember what we called Windows 95 when it came out - "Mac '84"!


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