Microsoft embraces Apple Mac loyalists – as long as they're using its software
iDevice admins now have a safe space where they can talk about M365
Microsoft is seeing the work environment – both in office and remote – become more heterogeneous, with a healthier mix of Windows and Apple Mac devices being embraced by enterprises and workers alike.
In response, the software titan has been building up its Intune cloud-based endpoint management system to include a growing range of Mac capabilities. In a recent example, Redmond made its native macOS Outlook client free to use, without first having to get a Microsoft 365 subscription or an Office license.
In that vein, Microsoft on Wednesday launched on online community for IT pros who use Redmond's products on Mac devices. The new Microsoft Mac Admin community is a nod to the increasing use of Macs for enterprise work that are managed though such Microsoft 365 tools like Intune, according to Arnab Biswas, senior product manager.
"Mac management has been a focus for Microsoft 365 that is demonstrated in the macOS capabilities offered and we continue to see phenomenal growth and customer-interest in macOS management," Biswas wrote in a blog post.
Microsoft "wanted to provide a platform where organizations, and specifically the IT community, can showcase their achievements, exchange tips and tricks, and collaborate with other Microsoft 365 or Intune administrators around the world," he wrote.
Mac's rise in the enterprise
The rapid shift to remote work brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the use of Mac devices in enterprises, which were already allowing employees to choose the technologies they used for work. macOS over the past year has gained ground on Windows in desktop operating system share in the US.
"You would be hard-pressed to find a large modern enterprise, in the US, that doesn't have at least a few Macs running around its halls," Ben Bajarin, CEO and senior analyst at market researcher Creative Strategies, wrote. "As was with the early days of the iPhone, executives and board members, and specific employee levels/recruits, will get any technology they want."
The question is whether companies are ready to manage the Mac systems in a similar way as Windows PCs as their enterprise use scales, Bajarin wrote. There are a number of vendors – such as Jamf, Kandji, and JumpCloud – that offer tools for managing Macs. Microsoft wants to help manage those systems via Microsoft 365 and Intune.
Come on in, the water's fine
The new Mac IT community – moderated by members of the Intune product team – is another way of attracting macOS device users into the Redmond fold.
"The community is open to anyone who has a Microsoft 365 account and wants to join the conversation on Microsoft Viva Engage," Biswas wrote. "You can ask questions, offer solutions, provide feedback, and participate in discussions on various topics related to your Microsoft 365 experience on Macs."
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Community members also can find existing resources like posts, comments, and advice to addressing challenges.
Those interested in joining the community can email MacAdmins@microsoft.com. They can access the Mac Admins page on Viva Engage here.
The announcement of the community got sparse but largely positive feedback on the Microsoft site, with one user writing that they were "looking forward to the security capabilities that Intune may offer in future releases, and this would be the appropriate platform to address and implement the solutions."
Another said they were hopeful "there will be some announcement regarding the logon session with Azure AD on macOS devices."
Microsoft is expanding its capabilities for managing and integrating its products with devices on other platforms, including macOS, iOS, and Android. Redmond flamed out of the mobile OS business years ago when it shuttered efforts around first Windows Phone and then Windows 10 mobile.
The company has since seen Apple's iOS and Google's Android as key avenues to expanding its presence in the mobile space. In April, Microsoft added support for iOS in its Phone Link software, enabling iPhone users to be able to make and take calls and see notifications in on their Windows 11 PCs. Phone Link also supports Android. ®