Trends in IT often take years, or even decades, to take off. Cloud was being talked about in the 1990s, yet in 2020 a remarkable 98% of organizations still have at least one mission-critical application deployed on premise. The shift to mobile has been similarly gradual, with the great ‘desktop replacement’ hype never quite taking off as expected.
The lockdown has probably been the single biggest accelerator of change in IT in recent years – possibly ever. Remote workers went from being a secondary concern to the primary one, meaning an entirely different mindset when it comes to managing networks, devices, software and processes.
Managing desktop: a changing picture?
For many years, PC dominated the enterprise landscape. Microsoft enjoyed an utterly dominant market position with its various Windows products, owning well over 90% market share in the 2000s. In 2016, it dipped below 90% for the first time, and two years later it had slipped to 86%. MacOS, meanwhile, has climbed from less than 8% market share in 2014 to over double that by mid 2020 – now occupying over one sixth of the desktop landscape.
Conventional wisdom in IT was that Windows was far easier to manage. Microsoft Endpoint Manager (or rather, SCCM as it was known) made deployment, patching and management of devices seamless and the vast majority of enterprise software was built with Windows OS in mind. The long list of advantages for choosing Windows meant that Apple had little chance of gaining any territory.
Apple had other ideas though. It has slowly been adding more enterprise functionality in recent years, such as advanced bootcamp, device supervision, better authentication and private app store options all slowly making a better case for enterprise adoption. The growth in cloud applications accessed through the web browser has also eliminated some of the reason for opting for Windows, so it’s no surprise to see the market start to shift.
Is supporting MacOS really comparable to Windows for IT leaders?
A September 2020 study asked 500 IT professionals in the US and UK a series of questions about their experiences during the lockdown. Many of the topics focused on aspects such as handling helpdesk tickets, getting visibility into issues and rating the remote working experience. A full copy of those results can be found in this free, interactive report – you don’t need to share anything at all to access it.
The study also focused on the management of different operating systems. The results showed that Windows was still largely considered easier to manage, with twice as many participants describing MacOS as difficult to support than Windows. Just under half – 42% – of respondents rated Windows as easy to support; only one quarter described MacOS in the same way.
While the preference among IT practitioners is clearly still tiled in Microsoft’s direction, the gap is perhaps smaller than it might be expected. There’s no doubt that the difference is smaller than it would have been a few years ago, had the survey been carried out five years ago. Over three quarters of IT teams consider MacOS as acceptable (or better) to support – a major shift on the landscape just a few years ago. It’s an important one too if you factor in the statistic that 94% of employees are more likely to join or stay with a company that gives them a choice, meaning supporting both OSes is becoming a competitive differentiator for the organizations that can do so.
Research from JAMF suggests that 98% of Fortune 500 companies use iOS in some capacity. The broader Apple ecosystem must have some impact on adoption rates too. The NetMotion study reveals some remarkable results in this area too: participants described mobile as easier than desktop to support in general. This is a profound change from a decade ago, perhaps as a result of the closed ecosystem of Apple and Android, or the maturing of MDM/EMM (and now UEM) technologies making management of mobile devices much simpler in years past.
Regardless of which devices your organization is able to support, it is essential it has the necessary technologies and processes in place to do so with remote workers at the heart of the strategy. For most IT teams, that means getting visibility into the employee experience no matter what device they are using, which application they are accessing or network they are connecting to. For the complete results of the NetMotion study, plus an introduction to experience monitoring with information from Gartner and Forrester – as well as a variety of practical case studies – you can access our interactive report for free here.
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