Interview As Apple's devices continue to find favour with enterprise users, the fortress that is Windows appears to be under attack in the corporate world.
Speaking to The Register as the Jamf Nation User Conference wound down, the software firm's CEO, Dean Hager, is - unsurprisingly - ebullient when it comes to the prospects for Apple gear in the world of suits.
Jamf specialises in device management and authentication, and has long been associated with managing Apple hardware in business and education environments. In recent years it has begun connecting its products with services such as Microsoft's Azure Active Directory as administrators face up to a hybrid working future.
As well as acknowledging that Apple might not have always lavished the attention on its macOS devices that its iOS stablemates enjoyed, Hager says: "The Mac hardware that Apple is coming out with right now with the M1 chips are literally breaking the price performance curve."
It is hard to argue with this. At present, kit based on Apple Silicon is impressively speedy while also being not particularly power-hungry compared to the competition. Assuming one is running native apps. The picture is not quite so rosy when running Intel-based apps via Rosetta 2 and, of course, there is Microsoft's disapproval of its Windows 11 OS going anywhere near Cupertino's hardware.
The latter point is a major factor for administrators pondering how to respond to the demands of users working from home and wondering why they can't use the same sleek examples of Apple Macs for their day jobs that they fire up during the evening.
The pain of managing a mixed hardware fleet aside, there is always that one weird corporate app for which Windows is required.
This was less of a problem for Intel-based Macs, which would cheerfully run Windows via virtual machine technology and permit a near-seamless experience; Parallels Desktop, for example, would run a Windows application on the Mac desktop without sending a user anywhere near the Start Menu.
'Microsoft's strategy, I believe, is going to the point where Windows is just going to become a streaming operating system'
However, with Windows 11, the drawbridge is being pulled up. Sure, the OS can be made to run on "unsupported hardware", but the potential for a halt to patches and updates will make many administrators think twice when it comes to getting an old application running on M1 hardware.
Hager's solution is Microsoft's recently introduced Windows 365 Cloud PC, which permits instances of Windows from a variety of extremely thin clients. Even the browser. "Microsoft's strategy, I believe, is going to the point where Windows is just going to become a streaming operating system," he says, "and that will be the path that people will run their legacy Windows applications on their Macs."
While Hager is undoubtedly an Apple enthusiast, he is also keen to emphasise choice in the increasingly hybrid workplace via standard Windows loads, standard Mac loads, and so on. The former is something the vast majority of administrators are familiar with. The latter perhaps less so, despite the efforts of Jamf over its almost 20-year history.
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Gartner veep Annette Zimmerman tells The Register: "Apple is a consumer-first company. Enterprise is welcome but is only secondary." Zimmerman went on to say that Apple's fervour for the M1 was driven by a desire to break free of Intel's product strategy and save costs rather than enterprise needs.
That said, Gartner acknowledges that iPad sales to business have been on the rise, partially driven by remote working needs.
While there might not be too many implementations out there the size of IBM and Cisco's partnerships with Apple, Hager points to a steady growth, as evidenced by Jamf's customer-base: which includes more than 60 customers that have an estate of over 10,000 Macs. Including smaller fry, the company lays claim to 57,000 customers, supporting 25 million devices.
"That has resulted in Apple needing to listen and respond to what their customers are asking for. And it's no longer a request from every individual... in the consumer world, one voice is one device. In the enterprise world, one voice might be 20,000 devices."
Which might explain the return of much-missed ports, the ditching of the TouchBar nobody asked for and a step back from some frankly terrible keyboards in recent MacBook Pros.
However, we can't help but wonder who, exactly, asked for a notch on the top of their screens. ®