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Cost, applications thwart Macs in business

Windows PCs continue to outpace Macs in business. Cost, application options and Apple's desktop and laptop strategy are all issues.

Experts don't anticipate seeing more Macs in business settings anytime soon.

Mac desktops and laptops are popular among consumers and students, but it is Windows machines that dominate most of the business world. Apple this week launched the new MacBook Pro with more features and specs geared toward the company's typical users. There are multiple reasons why Macs lag behind in the enterprise, ranging from Apple's marketing strategy to its lack of business applications, but the biggest reason is the cost.

Companies that want to supply computers to a large amount of employees that require basic business processes -- such as Microsoft Office, email and web browsing -- need affordable Windows PCs rather than high-end PCs or Macs, said Michael Oh, managing CTO and founder at TSP LLC, an Apple reseller based in Boston.

"They are just using a handful of applications, so they need a cheap Windows PC," he said. "Apple has never played there."

Apple's prices have been a criticism for a long time. A new 13-inch MacBook Pro laptop starts at $1,499, while the new HP Spectre Windows 10 laptop starts at $1,099 and the Dell XPS 13 Windows 10 laptop starts at $799. PC vendors such as Dell and HP Inc. sell some lower-end Windows laptops for as low as $200.

Macs have a disadvantage when it comes to business-focused software as well, said Steven Powers, IT manager at Millar Inc., a medical technology provider in Houston. Apple's computers are popular among creative users such as designers and video editors, but those professionals are still only a small portion of the enterprise workforce.

"Mac has always been thought of as being more of an artist's tool, so there aren't as many applications written for it to do business intelligence work as there is on a PC," Powers said. His company has fewer than 200 employees and just two Macs in its office.

Mac has always been thought of as being more of an artist's tool, so there aren't as many applications written for it.
Steven PowersIT manager, Millar Inc.

Common business analytics software Statistica is for Windows only, for instance. Additionally, many business applications that were originally for Windows and later offered a macOS version, such as accounting software QuickBooks, don't offer the same functionality on Macs.

One segment where Macs have made inroads is education, however, with a variety of macOS-only applications for students such as Pocket Anatomy, an app for studying images and information. In other industries, Apple simply hasn't made much of an effort to insert Macs in business, said Mehran Basiratmand, CTO at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Fla. The university provides about 400 Mac desktops and laptops in classrooms and computer labs.

"They do not have a cohesive strategy around corporate growth," Basiratmand said. "Their area of interest is mainly in consumer markets."

What's new with MacBook Pro

Apple's new MacBook Pro adds features that will be useful to consumers and creative professionals.

Its new Touch Bar is a thin retina touchscreen display along the top of the keyboard that replaces the Function and Escape keys. The Touch Bar shows customizable functions and commands based on the app the user is accessing. When a user is in Photoshop, for instance, it displays editing commands such as cropping and brightening, in addition to a spectrum of colors the user can slide their finger along to choose from.

The new MacBook Pro also has Touch ID built into the keyboard for secure authentication, plus Apple Pay. It includes a higher resolution Retina Display and runs on a customizable 2.9 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 or i7 processor.

Microsoft also this week released a new device aimed at creative users with the Surface Studio. The company's first desktop PC, the Surface Studio features a 28-inch 4.5K touchscreen display.

"Instead of assuming Apple will take care of creative professionals, now there is a conversation of which OS do you use -- macOS or Windows 10?" said Jack Narcotta, analyst at Technology Business Research in Hampton, N.H.

Microsoft's Surface Studio starts at $3,000. The 13-inch model of the new MacBook Pro comes to $1,799 with the Touch Bar, and the 15-inch model starts at $2,399. The MacBook Pros are available for pre-order now and will ship in two to three weeks, Apple said.

Next Steps

How to support non-Windows devices in the enterprise

Run Windows on Macs

Mac security flaws to keep an eye on

Dig Deeper on Alternative operating systems

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