Apple @ Work: Did web apps allow the Mac to flourish in the enterprise?

Apple products used to be something IT departments hated to deploy, but that mindset has certainly shifted in recent years. A lot has changed to get us to this point, but one thing was the key enabler to Apple’s growth in the enterprise: web applications. Now, you are probably thinking, why have web apps led to Apple’s growth in the enterprise? Your natural thought process would be that if an organization runs a lot of web applications, they’d want to deploy the cheapest hardware possible. They’d likely be looking at Chromebooks or inexpensive PC laptops. On the other hand, as technology has become more personal, employees have started to demand the tools they feel comfortable with. Thanks to Apple’s strong presence on mobile (iPad and iPhone), users want that same simplicity on their desktop workstations. So why have web applications enabled the adoption of macOS in the enterprise? Let’s look at the factors for how web apps on the Mac led to its enterprise growth.

About Apple @ Work: Bradley Chambers has been managing  an enterprise IT network since 2009 Through his experience deploying and managing firewalls, switches, a mobile device management system, enterprise-grade Wi-Fi, 100s of Macs, and 100s of iPads, Bradley will highlight ways in which Apple IT managers deploy Apple devices, build networks to support them, train users, stories from the trenches of IT management, and ways Apple could improve its products for IT departments.

The rise of mobile apps

When the iPhone first became popular back in 2007, many C-level executives bought them, handed them to their IT leaders, and said: “get my email working on it”. IT departments had to enable IMAP on their Exchange servers until Apple added native Exchange support in iPhone OS 2.0. When the iPad came out, it became a tool of choice for field employees. As CIOs looked across their software platforms, they were very dependant on native Windows applications. These apps weren’t easily portable to macOS, though. As the iPad and iPhone continued to gain traction in the enterprise, they had to look at supporting them through the App Store. The explosion of mobile devices in the enterprise was the first tree to fall in Windows dominance for IT departments.

Was virtualization the answer on the desktop?

When Apple transitioned to Intel processors, they opened the door for virtualization on the desktop. It made it possible to run Windows alongside macOS and run native PC apps. The problem with doing this for every employee who is running a Mac is that it adds significant cost (the cost of VMware on top of buying another Windows license). When IT managers looked to the future of their applications, were we at a time when web technology had advanced to run desktop-like applications in the browser. Software as a service was becoming popular for enterprise applications as CIOs wanted a way to control costs and stay on top of the latest software enhancements, but this is exactly what macOS needed.

Web apps on the Mac

As applications transitioned to the web, the need for virtualization was over. The need for PC only companies was over. Mac users could access the same applications as their PC users. iPad and iPhone users had native apps for their platforms. What started as a C-level only tool, the Mac is now commonplace among Fortune 500 companies. Back in 2016, IBM made headlines by deploying 100,000 Macs to their employees, and that number has continued to rise. If it wasn’t for the rise of web applications, most corporate apps would still be locked to the Windows ecosystem, and that would be bad for Apple. The very thing that seems bad for Apple on the desktop with consumers is the thing that has allowed them to flourish in the enterprise.