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VMware: Macs Poised to Usurp Windows PCs in Enterprises (For Real This Time)

Kevin McLaughlin
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VMware has been talking for years about the "post-PC era" and how mobile enterprises are increasingly using non-Windows devices to get work done.

Now VMware has data that it claims shows Microsoft is about to lose its title as top dog in the enterprise desktop PC market to Apple, as more workers succumb to the irresistible allure of Macs.

VMware recently commissioned Sunnyvale, Calif.-based market research firm Dimensional Research to survey 376 IT professionals. The results show that Windows is "losing its grip on the enterprise," Erik Frieberg, vice president of marketing for VMware's End-User Computing group, said in a recent blog post.

"Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the results is that Windows is no longer the platform of choice in the enterprise with users overwhelmingly preferring Macs," Frieberg said in the blog post.

Seventy percent of respondents said their organizations officially support Macs today, and 73 percent said their employees prefer Macs over Windows PCs because they're easier to use, according to Frieberg.

Related: VMware, Google Teaming Up To Let Windows Apps Run On Chromebooks

However, the survey also showed that IT professionals don't think Macs are easier to support. And about half of respondents said only some of their organizations' enterprise apps are ready to run on Macs.

In addition, three-quarters of IT professionals disagree with the popular -- and much-debated -- belief that Macs are more secure than Windows PCs.

"While employees clearly prefer Macs, there are challenges from an IT perspective that Macs must overcome before they can replace Windows PCs in the enterprise," Frieberg said in the blog post.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the solution to these problems can be found within VMware's own product portfolio. Frieberg said 89 percent of respondents said it would be "valuable" to run Windows on Macs using virtual desktop software, while 91 percent said the same for being able to run virtual desktops on Windows, Mac and Linux.

That may be the case, but it's tough to conclude that Microsoft's massive global enterprise Windows business is waning based on a survey of 376 IT professionals, especially when the geographic range of the survey isn't made clear.

Rand Morimoto, president of Convergent Computing, an Oakland, Calif.-based Microsoft partner that handles virtual desktop projects, told CRN that Mac usage is growing with his enterprise customers, but adoption rates vary depending on geographic region and industry segment.

Macs are the dominant PC choice for startups, media organizations and academic organizations, but aren’t so prevalent in regulated industries like healthcare, defense and legal circles, Morimoto told CRN.

And while Macs are popular in California, Morimoto said he sees fewer enterprises using Macs in the rest of the U.S. and even less Mac usage in Europe, Japan and China.

NEXT: What About Google Chromebooks In Enterprises?

What's interesting about the VMware-commissioned study is that it doesn't mention Google Chromebooks and whether they're gaining a foothold in Windows-weary enterprises. That's probably because VMware software is already helping solve IT challenges for businesses that use Chromebooks.

In February, VMware and Google unveiled a joint offering that marries VMware's View desktop virtualization software and Google Chromebooks, with access to Windows apps enabled by VMware's Blast HTML5 technology.

The survey also doesn't account for the fact that Microsoft, under CEO Satya Nadella, is no longer hammering the "Windows first" messaging with every product release.

With Office for iPad, and the still-in-development Android version of Office, Microsoft has shown it's willing to release software for other platforms before Windows, which kind of undermines the "Windows is dying" argument.

VMware's survey may in fact point to an important trend taking place in the enterprise desktop market. Yet it’s important to note that VMware wants to stoke interest in virtual desktops, a market that hasn't fulfilled its vast potential because it's expensive and complex.

In Frieberg's view, enterprises that don't have a plan for dealing with growing Mac usage are going to face problems down the road.

"For companies, the choice is very clear – they need to respond to end-user demand for Macs in the enterprise or they will find it difficult to recruit and retain the best talent on the market," Frieberg said in the blog post. "They also need to provide IT administrators the tools to support a heterogeneous desktop environment otherwise there will be disruption to the business."


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