The scarcity of laptops made sustaining operations a challenge in the spring when companies made the quick pivot to remote operations.
Even the most cloud-ready businesses scrambled to secure laptops, and a haves and have-nots dynamic began to play out. Apple saw net Mac sales grow 11% year over year, according to its fiscal year 2020 earnings report.
Data from IDC shows devices running Apple's MacOS have expanded their presence in the enterprise space, a market long dominated by Microsoft. Among companies with 1,000 employees or more, Mac prevalence went from 17% in 2019 to 23% in 2020. Forrester numbers show an ever larger jump: MacOS use spiked from 15.3% in 2019 to 28.5% the following year.
The impact of the pandemic "accelerated a little bit of the Mac deployments that were happening," said Andrew Hewitt, analyst at Forrester. This acceleration happened especially among enterprises facing supply chain issues with other providers.
For IT departments, going from a predominantly Windows environment to a more diverse mix means things get more complex. Companies are grappling with less control over the elements that may cause an outage and demand for a wider set of skills among its workers.
Cost is a critical factor in enterprise decisions. In 2015, IBM began allowing employees to choose between PCs and Mac equipment, and found it saved between $273 and $543 in a four-year lifecycle per Mac compared to a PC.
"Even if we accept the proposition that the Mac is maybe a more expensive or more premium device, the actual lifecycle costs of a device over a period of three or four years [are] much greater for other things," said Jeremy Roberts, research director at Info-Tech Research Group. "There might be maybe a slightly higher initial cost but I think the real implication is going to be the back-end."
Businesses that rely primarily on Windows operating systems, as well as the Microsoft 365 suite, can leverage its endpoint management solution, Intune. For MacOS devices, Jamf is the dominating solution, according to IDC.
"As soon as you start introducing things like iOS devices, iPadOS devices and MacOS devices into the environment, there's a specialized toolset that some users prefer," said Roberts. "Perhaps you end up with a bifurcation, both in skills and in product."
As equipment gets more diverse there's a "rationalization concern," on whether or not businesses are spending too much money on parallel management systems.
Another factor to contend with is the upskilling of service desk staff, who must also be capable of responding to Mac-specific issues while servicing the whole organization, according to Hewitt.
"From an enterprise perspective, it's a bit of an investment to look at managing those devices, responding to different incidents and making sure that you're doing that, all at cost," said Hewitt.
MacOS expansion in an enterprise setting will bring more complexity in the market, according to Hewitt.
"There are definitely tools out there that are starting to make it a little bit easier to bring Mac's into the enterprise, but it's going to be more of an investment from the enterprise as opposed to something that's going to save costs," he said.
But the actual device users turn to for work will matter less and less as companies redesign their operations around the cloud, said Roberts. Formerly a priority of the CIO alone, the cloud and how a company leverages it for success has also expanded its dominance, extending into the realm of the full C-suite as a key executive priority.
"If I'm going to create a desktop as a service environment, for example, in Azure, it doesn't actually matter what device somebody uses to access that," Roberts said.