The Real Reason Apple Users Are Treated Like Second-Class Citizens

Sep 26, 2016 3:03:15 PM

(With apologies to Jeff Foxworthy) You might be an Apple user if…

  • You get blank stares from your IT department when you ask for SUS assistance
  • Your company help desk constantly “escalates” through at least four technicians before you get to someone who can actually solve your problem
  • You have to manually provision and update your own devices
  • You have to reformat Word documents so they are readable by your peers
  • You are stuck with aging devices because it’s too difficult to move your environment to something new
  • You’ve ever heard the words, “Well, I know how to do that on Windows, but…”

Let’s face it—business professionals live primarily in a Windows world. According to EMA primary research, 90% of desktop and laptop PCs used to perform business tasks run a Windows operating system. Apple macOS devices only account for about 7% of the enterprise PC market (with Linux and Chromebook devices comprising the balance). Nonetheless, this is actually a significant improvement for Apple as the company traditionally focused on the home consumer market but now struggles to make inroads into the enterprise space. A growing number of enterprise Apple enthusiasts, however, must still deal with a management support ecosystem that was principally designed to administer Windows endpoints.

Recognizing the dominance of Windows PCs in the business market, management solution providers (including Microsoft itself) initially developed automation platforms solely to support Windows endpoints. As more and more non-Windows devices (primarily Macs) began entering the workplace, solution providers started expanding some of their platform capabilities to heterogeneous architectures. However, for most solution suites, non-Windows support continues to be limited. For instance, it is not uncommon for Windows-based solutions to provide asset tracking and, possibly, an image-based provisioning tool to support Mac PCs. In most cases, however, this appears to be just a token support for non-Windows devices, intended to placate the vendor’s increasingly heterogeneous customer base but falling short of delivering comprehensive support for non-Windows platforms. As a result, end users employing non-Windows devices are often left out in the cold when it comes to maintenance and support of their devices, and they often have to manually administer their own environments.

Nowhere is this lack of enterprise and vendor support felt more keenly than with the administration of Apple devices. Indeed, it is rather ironic that Apple devices are often adopted for their ease of use only for the user to discover that “ease of use” does not always translate into “ease of management”—especially in business environments. Apple platforms have some very unique requirements that must be incorporated into a management platform to provide effective support. This fact does not suggest that Apple’s operating system design approach lacks merit in any way; it simply recognized that the platforms are architecturally different from Windows and require a different approach. For instance, Apple employs its own Software Update Service (SUS), which should be employed to ensure the proper installation and updating of applications, updates, and patches. Additionally, management solutions should integrate with Apple’s Device Enrollment Program (DEP) to enable a zero-touch deployment of iOS and Mac OS X devices.

Certainly a management solution purpose-built to support Apple devices is ideal for providing iOS and Mac OS X support. However, this does not mean independent solutions should be adopted to support both Apple and Windows endpoints in the same environment. Utilizing disparate management platforms will actually increase complexity by requiring the use of multiple interfaces and non-standardized administrative processes. Instead, a unified endpoint management solution should be adopted that delivers best-of-breed support for all device types employed by the organization. When IT administrators have the comprehensive management tools necessary to address the unique requirements for all devices in their support stack, end users are able to receive the targeted support they need to boost their productivity and enhance their experiences.

To explore the topic further, join me on October 6th for a one-hour webinar presentation identifying the optimal practices and solutions that will enable comprehensive management of Apple devices side-by-side with Windows endpoints.

Steve Brasen

Written by Steve Brasen

Steve Brasen is a Research Director leading EMA’s practices covering endpoint management, identity management, and access management. Steve’s career at EMA follows 20 years of “in-the-trenches” enterprise experience in IT management, operational support, and engineering for high-technology, telecommunications, and financial institutions, including: MCI Worldcom, Bell Communications Research, UNIX International, Salomon Smith Barney, and Agilent Technologies.

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