Why Microsoft Continues to Rule the Enterprise, Even in the Era of BYOD
by Shirish Phatak on November 30, 2015
For decades, John Q. Public has pictured a raging feud filled with hate and fury between Microsoft and Apple. While it's true that these tech heavyweights are competitors, they have, over the years, forged more of a relationship of co-opetition -- a unique and interesting blend of competition and cooperation. In fact, in 1997 Apple was about to go belly-up in the fish tank and Bill Gates bailed them out. Through the years, both companies have made progress in terms of creating more compatible products. For example, popular Microsoft products like Windows and the Office suite of business apps are available for the Mac and other Apple products.
Microsoft is recognized for affordable products that work.
An unspoken, and largely unknown, aspect of this unofficial co-opetitive arrangement is that Microsoft and Apple essentially, and by default, split the markets for hardware and software products. They did this much like the neighborhood kids drawing lines in the dust to mark their territory -- Microsoft sat atop the ivory towers of the business world, earning most of their money from software development. Apple's side of the line included ruling grandly over the consumer device market, making more profits from hardware on which their software happened to be installed. Apple just makes cool-looking stuff, while Microsoft has historically churned out products that, well, just work. Enterprises need stuff to just work.
As BYOD was born, many speculated that it would signal the end of Microsoft's unabashed and unrelenting reign over the universe of business software. That didn't happen. In fact, BYOD is now mainstream, and Microsoft's position atop the throne of business is unchallenged. Why does Microsoft have such a hold in this arena, and why is there no reason to think that will change?
Apple Products are Generally Closed and Rigid
Apple isn't configurable like Windows-based PCs are. This makes it impossible to convert to Apple products for a great number of businesses that need flexibility and the ability to customize their machines.
Consumers love products that come fully functional out of the box. For the average person with typical skills, this is the easiest possible way to take advantage on the latest tech, and the convenience is worth a little more money. For the enterprise IT department, however, Apple products are far too rigid, and the closed infrastructure simply does not give them the flexibility they need. A Windows-based machine can be customized and configured for a wide range of activities, from setting up CAD workstation environments to word processing activities and a plethora of jobs in between. Apple's machines are what-you-see-is-what-you-get. There isn't much potential for customizing their computers to fit the jobs a business has to do.
Apple Products Have a Short Lifespan
There's been some buzz recently because Microsoft has retired several notable products that have been mainstays in the business world for a long time -- including Windows Server 2003, Windows XP, Windows 7, etc. At the same time, the unpopular Windows 8 was quickly replaced by 8.1 and moved aside for version 10 not long afterward. However, Microsoft's products typically have long lifespans compared to Apple's products.
Most Apple devices have a lifecycle of a year at most. That's fine for a single user and even for small shops that only have to replace a few dozen machines. But for the enterprise that has to replace thousands of computers, it just isn't practical. Not only is the cost prohibitive, but most enterprises would have to invest in an entire new department dedicated to installing, troubleshooting, and maintaining new machines to upgrade that often, which is far too wasteful of time and resources.
Apple Products are Too Expensive
There has been, and will continue to be, endless debate over whether apples-to-apples Apples are worth the extra price tag over PCs, but the bottom line is, it costs more to buy an Apple device than it does to buy a comparable Windows-based device. This holds true for desktop machines, laptops, tablet computers, and smartphones. Business is inherently bent towards cost savings. Profits, after all, are the whole point. It would be hard enough to convince a conservative business to spend $1,500 when they could spend $1,000 or $800 for the same thing. You'll never convince them to do that 10,000 times for all their workstations.
Apple Doesn't Really Want to Rule the Enterprise, Anyway
Apple is making money. Microsoft is making money. So, what's the problem? There is no problem.
Apple isn't losing anything by sticking to the consumer device market. Their products still generate ridiculous profits, and their consumer users love them more than the breath of life. As long as every iPhone release spurs 5-hour lines full of people who are insanely happy to fork over upwards of $600 per device, Apple will smile all the way to the bank. Meanwhile, Microsoft will continue to service the demanding, tight-fisted, set-in-their-ways businesses. They, too, have a fair share of the technology revenue pie.
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