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Apple Wants More Macs in Businesses: Can It Take on Intel vPro, AMD Ryzen Pro?

Apple
(Image credit: Apple)

Having posted its all-time quarter record revenue of $111.4 billion this week, Apple is looking for ways to expand. The company's CEO, Tim Cook, sees selling Macs to businesses as one of the main growth opportunities for Apple, especially with the Apple M1 chip and its successors in tow. But with Intel appealing to businesses with vPro and AMD attempting to do the same with Ryzen Pro, there's work to do. 

Apple has significantly increased its global PC market share from around 3.6% in Q1 2010 to 8.2% in 2020, due to wide adoption of Macs by consumers. Being the world's fourth largest PC supplier, Apple is still considerably behind Dell, which commanded 16.4% of the market last year, but noticeably ahead of companies Acer and Asus, which controlled around 6% of the market each. 

The Big Three PC makers, Lenovo, HP and Dell, all have large businesses selling to enterprise customers. So it makes sense for the Cupertino, California-based company to eye business PC sales.  

(Image credit: Apple)

"We have been on a multi-year effort in the enterprise and have gained quite a bit of traction there," Cook said during Apple's quarterly conference call with analysts and investors, as reported by CRN. "We are very optimistic about what we can do in that space." 

Indeed, Apple has been trying to tap into the enterprise for quite a while. In 2014, it inked the IBM MobileFirst for iOS solutions pact in a bid to offer specialized apps, services, tools and management services for iPhones and iPads used by various enterprises, such as SAS. In 2015, the two companies expanded their collaboration to Mac PCs with the Mac@Work program. IBM had over 290,000 Apple devices in its own fleet as of late 2019, which was still below IBM's headcount of 352,600 that year. 

In addition to IBM, there are multiple Apple Mac-focused managed service providers (MSPs) who have been witnessing increasing adoption of Apple's devices by various companies in the recent years. 

"We have seen an increase in Mac purchases by our clients--not only the ones that already depend on Apple and the macOS, but also clients that have traditionally been on Windows," Jim Harryman, CEO of Kinetic Technology Group, a Mac-focused MSP, told CRN. "We see [Apple products] creeping into those companies as well and starting to take hold in areas that you wouldn't traditionally think."

Apple M1: A New Enterprise Opportunity? 

Business-focused PCs from companies like Lenovo, HP, and Dell mostly rely on Intel's vPro, with some opting for AMD Pro. They support a host of security and management technologies that are exceptionally handy for the target market. But even with Intel processors inside Macs, Apple's platform is much different on the hardware side of matters and obviously different from Windows and Linux on the software side of things. Therefore, Apple has never supported Intel vPro or AMD Pro. This, perhaps, has been a barrier to entry for Macs in enterprises. 

Now that Apple is transitioning its own system-on-chips (SoCs) and released the M1 and is moving to a system architecture it controls almost completely, it can potentially develop a vPro or AMD Pro-like platform with enhanced security and robust management technologies, which will make it more competitive against The Big Three PC OEMs. 

In fact, when Apple rolled out its Employee Choice program a few years ago, it highlighted numerous enterprise-oriented capabilities, though most of them come with regular Apple Macs. 

AMD's Pro platform supports capabilities like Transparent Secure Memory Encryption (TSME) to protect against snooping while data is processed. That's something that Apple hasn't talked about publicly in terms of its security technologies. With its own silicon, Apple is much better equipped to introduce such features and support them across its hardware and software.

"We are also pleased with the rapid adoption of the Mac employee choice program among the world’s leading businesses," Luca Maestri, CFO of Apple, said during Apple's quarterly call. "With the introduction of M1-powered Macs, we are excited to extend these experiences to an even broader range of customers and employees, especially in times of increased remote working." 

Cook admitted that Apple's share on the PC market is "quite low in the total personal computer market" and said that the company's own processors opened up new growth opportunities.

"[The M1] gives us a new growth trajectory that we have not had in the past for the Mac," Cook said. 

  • Heat_Fan89
    No chance in hell of that happening for MANY reasons. I am basing my comment as a Mac user since 2002. The first thing to realize is that Apple's strongest advantage has disappeared. Windows has caught up to macOS and in many ways surpassed it. Windows 10 integration with the XBOX platform has taken a page out of Apple's playbook. Windows 10 is just as stable as macOS and in many ways even more stable when you factor in that Microsoft has to build their OS around millions if not billions of hardware configurations around the world. All Apple has to do is build it around their hardware.

    Let's get to the hardware shall we. Two years ago I purchased a 2018 Mac mini and a year later a Lenovo ThinkCentre Tiny. The Mac mini cost me around $1k and the Lenovo was around $400. The Mac mini has had a number of Bluetooth issues which I resolved by rebuying previous generation Apple wireless keyboard and their Gen 1 Magic Trackpad. The ThinkCentre Tiny has been rock solid and did not cost me a penny more i.e. not one single hardware issue.

    On to the software, macOS has gotten more and more bloated. I can run multiple programs and browsers with multiple tabs in Windows 10 and I rarely push 8GB. In macOS the OS uses around 7.5GB at startup. I had to upgrade the RAM to 32GB, not that I needed it but upgrading the Mac mini's system memory is a GIANT PITA. So I only wanted to do it once.

    Apple is slowly blending iOS, iPadOS into macOS. With the release of Big Sur macOS 11 it looks and feels a lot like iOS/iPadOS. The biggest roadblock for Apple is hardware costs. Apple hardware is priced more than a Windows PC and generally speaking so is the software from 3rd parties. When you are charging $900 for a Mac Pro monitor stand that gives you an idea how out of touch Apple is.

    The other problem facing Apple is software support. Apple tends to support their hardware for up to 8 yrs where that doesn't factor in with Windows hardware or someone wanting to extend the life of a PC by running Linux. I still have laptops running Windows 10 that are way past 13 yrs. Businesses who make corporate decisions tend to shy away from upgrades as long as they can get away with it and if they do they will buy cheaply priced client workstations like Lenovo and Dell offers on average for around $500.

    So no I don't see Apple having too much success luring corporate and businesses to their hardware and software.
    Reply
  • Scimmy
    So I disagree almost completely with your statement. I work in a fairly large company that does a goofy hybrid system with windows PC's at our desks with ipad's and iphones for field work. Our iphone/ipad replacement program is on a 6 year rotation and our windows boxes barely make it to 2. Most of our desktop programs are web based so processing power isn't much of an issue. Bluetooth is not used at all on any of the PC's for security reasons, I know this may not be normal for other corporations so that could be an issue for some. Where Apple shines is the "old" guys have no issues using the ipads but cannot handle anything on the desktops pretty much at all, which causes us younger people so much extra work. But just on replacement costs if we switched our desktops for mac mini's at 699 and they even worked for 4 years we would save 300 bucks a computer with well over a 1000 computers the cost savings would be massive. I see our IT guys atleast 3 times a week fixing the desktops but usually only have to call maybe twice a year for the mac stuff. I wish they would either go full mac, or swap the ipads for surface tablets just for continuity.

    edit- Im just a field operator and have no input at all into buying decisions
    Reply
  • g-unit1111
    No way. Where I work we deal with relatively high end hardware to deal with the demands of drafting and rendering software. And we build all of our systems in house because it is so much cheaper and easier to build and upgrade than we figured it was to buy from even Dell or a business that provides IT solutions. If we wanted to swap out a dead video card or upgrade a CPU, we just do it ourselves and we don't have to deal with techs that come to the office. Until Apple gets to that level where they offer that kind of component modularity, there's no way they could compete with the DIY model.
    Reply
  • domih
    Heat_Fan89 said:
    No chance in hell of that happening for MANY reasons...

    I concur with each of your reasons. I would add:

    (a) May IT departments are not pleased with Macs integration into the Windows ecosystem. There are always vexing details like for instance all these something folders and files Mac OS creates on shared volumes. With a Linux Samba server, you add filtering to block these files.

    (b) The main reason, IMHO, is also the culture at Apple. When interacting with corporate customers Apple Sales people ask corporate representatives to drink the Kool Aid, kneel, bend an pray in awe facing toward Cupertino.

    (c) Not the first Apple is going "entreprise", each time they dropped the products after a few years. Corporations have long memory.
    Reply
  • wr3zzz
    Apple is never about two things that enterprises care about: value for money and aversion to a closed ecosystem controlled by Apple and only Apple.
    Reply
  • Chung Leong
    domih said:
    (a) May IT departments are not pleased with Macs integration into the Windows ecosystem. There are always vexing details like for instance all these something folders and files Mac OS creates on shared volumes. With a Linux Samba server, you add filtering to block these files.

    The solution is to axe the Windows ecosystem altogether. Cloud-only infrastructure is far more cost-effective.
    Reply
  • dave.boo
    Scimmy said:
    So I disagree almost completely with your statement. I work in a fairly large company that does a goofy hybrid system with windows PC's at our desks with ipad's and iphones for field work. Our iphone/ipad replacement program is on a 6 year rotation and our windows boxes barely make it to 2. Most of our desktop programs are web based so processing power isn't much of an issue. Bluetooth is not used at all on any of the PC's for security reasons, I know this may not be normal for other corporations so that could be an issue for some. Where Apple shines is the "old" guys have no issues using the ipads but cannot handle anything on the desktops pretty much at all, which causes us younger people so much extra work. But just on replacement costs if we switched our desktops for mac mini's at 699 and they even worked for 4 years we would save 300 bucks a computer with well over a 1000 computers the cost savings would be massive. I see our IT guys atleast 3 times a week fixing the desktops but usually only have to call maybe twice a year for the mac stuff. I wish they would either go full mac, or swap the ipads for surface tablets just for continuity.

    edit- Im just a field operator and have no input at all into buying decisions
    I'd be willing to bet dollars to donuts that the desktops/laptops are leased instead of the purchases that the tablets/phones are. Most large companies do that.

    If they are leased any hardware issues are not addressed. The machine is removed, imaged, wiped, and returned for a replacement. A properly implemented AD helps alleviate the imaging.

    If your IT guys aren't addressing hardware issues due to leasing, but rather software issues, your company isn't getting their money's worth out of them. There should be a simple, streamlined, and stable image. Administrative privileges should be restricted. Yada, yada, yada.

    Your post mentions Bluetooth being disabled; what other security precautions are being undertaken? Are mass storage devices not mounted (removable storage access in gpedit)? Are non-white listed programs allowed execution (Application Control)?
    Reply
  • Scimmy
    dave.boo said:
    I'd be willing to bet dollars to donuts that the desktops/laptops are leased instead of the purchases that the tablets/phones are. Most large companies do that.

    If they are leased any hardware issues are not addressed. The machine is removed, imaged, wiped, and returned for a replacement. A properly implemented AD helps alleviate the imaging.

    If your IT guys aren't addressing hardware issues due to leasing, but rather software issues, your company isn't getting their money's worth out of them. There should be a simple, streamlined, and stable image. Administrative privileges should be restricted. Yada, yada, yada.

    Your post mentions Bluetooth being disabled; what other security precautions are being undertaken? Are mass storage devices not mounted (removable storage access in gpedit)? Are non-white listed programs allowed execution (Application Control)?

    Yeah I'm sure they are leased, I've been in my current position 3.5 years and we are our third set of computers, the Lenovo set seemed the best overall, but the last round we got all new dells and they are horrible, weekly atleast one of our computers go down, most common issue is the ssd is no longer recognized, replacement usually takes 2 days, if they even find our office. All the computers have a standard image and we have to get our supervisor and an IT supervisor to approve any other program we need. Mass storage devices are prohibited, but on the off chance one is needed, we have to get a managers approval, must be supplied directly by the company, and must be virus scanned by IT immediately before and after use. External emails are basically blocked, can't even charge our phones off the computer, no camera uploads. Pretty frustrating being a field operator, have to use a bastardized media upload program so our ipads can upload our pictures and videos into the system. I guess the reason behind it was a Russian hack a few years ago from an infected resume word file that caused a few million dollars in damage. Physical security is even worse, iris scanner, finger print reader, metal detector, explosive detector, and all carried stuff thru a x-ray, our security badges have rfid and are tracked constantly, luckily they can't track us real time just yet, it lags about 15 minutes behind
    Reply
  • ezst036
    Apple will most likely not be successful, for two reasons. The already aforesaid reasons above, with emphasis on the difficulties that come with trying to integrate macs into windows environments. Apple's bossy nature keeps a "transition period" unnecessarily difficult.

    But the other reason is that a switch has in small ways already begun. Many developers have already chosen Linux, not Mac, as their preferred platform.

    And where the developers go, IT departments go.

    Now how is apple going to compete with something that does integrate well and make for a much nicer "transition period", IT departments already have built in talent for it, and Linux is free? The future here belongs to Linux. It's less risk and less cost.
    Reply
  • Sippincider
    How many are thinking, "Yay another run at enterprise which they'll abandon after a year or two"? :rolleyes:

    Intel plus Boot Camp gave Apple all the desktop market share they were going to get. Now both have been traded for the novelty of phone apps on the desktop, ran by what's effectively a new PowerPC.
    Reply