How Apple Can Overtake the Enterprise

Can Apple ever get beyond nipping at the edges of the enterprise and actually get in? The Enterprise Desktop Alliance says 2011 will be the year of the Mac in the Enterprise. Its survey sees a 5.2 percent penetration by the end of the year. But how?

I work in a law firm which has very specific apps built only for the Windows OS, yet I can see how it could happen here.

In the twelve years I’ve been in IT, I’ve never seen an attorney glow over a piece of hardware. The first Blackberry raised an eyebrow, and once I saw an attorney was showing off his new 400 GHz processor and brag how fast Word Perfect launched. It was faster than the 266 GHz, but it was no wow.

Lawyers typically don’t glow over hardware and one I spoke with yesterday is no exception. He wanted me to re-install Dragon Naturally Speaking on his desktop. He’d had it before but lost interest because of its limitations. Dragon is adequate with maybe 95 percent accuracy, but you frequently have to go back to correct misspellings.  The lawyer wanted it again because he’d installed it on his iPad, which – unlike its Windows brother –  required zero training and was 100 percent accurate in his short demonstration. Two touches to the screen and he e-mailed it to me. Then he opened the XEN client, and with one touch his desktop PC had gone blank and showed up on the iPad.

Now compare this to the PC. You have to navigate to the portal, enter your credentials. Those may include an RSA token generated by your Blackberry, which will get you to an icon that you’ll click to bring up your desktop.

The lawyer said he only buys Apple products now. And while this may only be anecdotal, I’m dealing more and more with attorneys whose home PCs are not PCs at all. So Apple has been nipping at the edges of our enterprise. Can it do better than the 3.3 percent it already holds?

It’s less the hardware that separates Windows and Mac than the software written for it. In the case of my law firm, Apple just doesn’t have the myriad of support for applications that attorneys use, like document management software, let alone more specific apps like LiveNote, CaseMap, Summation, or Sanction, which are common in most every law office.

But could these apps show up on the iPad? Why not? A free better version of Dragon has already squeezed the $800 version from a Windows desktop. There’s no reason the same thing can’t happen with these other, smaller apps. LiveNote, for example, which attorneys use to read transcripts in real time, plays into the iPad’s strengths of portability and instant connection. App an app moves to the iPad, document management and e-mail integration remain on the desktop. When the next build comes, the IT department may close the deal by converting to Google shared docs. And that could close the book on Microsoft.

Apple could never get in the front door when it competed head to head with Microsoft, but its found a side door as users find the Apple magic at home and push to have that same magic at work.

— Dino Londis

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