It's not your imagination. Apple Macintoshes are turning up in businesses beyond the creative departments, increasingly becoming a normal part of the IT fabric. One recent IT survey by researcher Information Technology Intelligence shows that 23 percent of respondents had at least 30 Macs in their businesses, 12 percent had at least 4,000 Macs -- and 68 percent said they would let users choose Macs as their work PCs in the next year. A Forrester Research survey of larger enterprises showed that Macs now account for 4.5 percent of deployed systems. (Both IDC and Gartner report that Macs now make up 9.1 percent of all PCs sold to individuals.)
IT's acceptance of the Mac appears to be genuine, not a grudging response to unwanted user demand: "Desktop managers are painting a rosy future for Apple on the corporate desktop," the recent Forrester report states. One reason is the quality of the Mac hardware and operating system; Information Technology Intelligence's survey shows that 82 percent of IT respondents rated the Mac platform as very good or excellent, compared with 60 percent for Windows Vista.
"About a year ago, I started noticing that every time I brought my MacBook Pro to a conference, just about everyone else had one too," says Carl Howe, a research director at the Yankee Group. Howe is not alone: "We're definitely hearing more stories of Mac consumers pushing IT to let them use Macs at Windows-based work environments," says Tim Bajarin, president of the consultancy Creative Strategies.
The growth in Mac adoption has been driven by several factors, everything from Apple's conversion to an Intel-based platform with several virtualization options to run Windows to the Webification of corporate applications, the rise of software as a service, and Apple's dramatic ascendance in consumer mindshare.
"IT shouldn't be afraid of Macs," says Kunal Malik, IT director at Citrix Systems, a virtualization provider. "They're very manageable. You just have to prepare the environment, understand how to manage the Mac's limitations, and then help your users adopt the platform they want."
Acceptance of user-managed PC gives Macs a boost
A key reason for growing Mac acceptance in business is a significant change in corporate IT: an increased willingness to let down the fortress gates and let employees use the systems they feel most productive with.
"The Baby Boomers were happy if technology worked," says Benjamin Gray, an analyst at Forrester Research. "They're rapidly being replaced by much a younger, more technology-savvy generation that grew up with access to smartphones, handheld devices, and the full Internet in their pocket. These guys have a much greater passion for whatever devices and applications they feel they need in order to be productive."