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Enterprise bullish on Macs despite PC bears and integration obstacles

By John Rizzo

Monday, March 16, 2009

With PC prices collapsing and Apple reducing its enterprise presence, large enterprises are planning to increase their numbers of Macs, according to a new survey by the Enterprise Desktop Alliance. Not only is the growing gap in pricing not phasing enterprise customers so far, but many believe that Macs cost less in the long run.

Seventy four percent of survey respondents said that are planning to increase the numbers of Macs in their organization. Only 2 percent said they would reduce their Macs. The survey also reported that Active Directory integration continues to be the top obstacle to completely integrating Macs and PCs.

Yet, over the past year, the price gap between PCs and Mac hardware has been growing. A TBR analyst recently reported that PC prices are rapidly collapsing in a trend is "permanent and structural." In the forth quarter of 2008 alone, the average selling price of PCs fell by 13 percent. Fortune said that Apple has been immune to this collapse, points out that Apple's average selling price for Macs has declined at a much slower rate. But Survey respondents believe Macs are cheaper in the long run, citing lower cost of ownership of Macs and increased worker productivity in the top 5 reasons they are increasing the numbers of Macs.

It isn't just the survey respondents who are buying Macs. Apple posted record revenue and profit in the last quarter of 2008, up 28.7 percent from a year earlier. A lot of this was from increased iPod sales during the worst holiday shipping seasons since Jimmy Stewart found Zuzu' petals in his pocket. But someone bought 2.5 million Macs in the three-month period, in line with analysts' projections, a unit increase of 8.7 percent from the previous year.

By contrast, Dell sales dropped 16 percent during the quarter ended January 30. Microsoft saw 2 percent growth in revenue, $900 million less than expected, and announced layoffs of 5000 employees.

Ironically, Apple has quietly laid off 50 people. The ironic part is that these were enterprise salespeople, and it wasn't due to disappointing sales. CNET reported last week the layoffs included an entire Austin Texas sales group as well as Cupertino staff. CNET said that the layoff didn't reflect poor performance of the group, but rather a shift in enterprise strategy from a direct sales force to one of relying on resellers and the channels to reach out to enterprise. Or, perhaps Apple sees enterprise reaching out to Apple, as the Enterprise Desktop Alliance seems to indicate.

Ninety percent of the survey respondents stated that it was important that Macs and Windows PCs be at "integration and management parity." Most (58 percent) listed Active Directory integration as the top issue. Client management issues were second at 53 percent, and file sharing issues were third at 42 percent.

So why are these survey respondents saying they plan to buy more Macs? The number one reason was that they want to give their users what they want: 27.2 percent listed employee preference as driving their Mac strategy. The respondents (24.7 percent of them) also believe that Macs make their employees more productive. The lower cost of ownership came in third as a reason. The traditional explanation of Mac success in business--Apple's switch to Intel processors--was chosen by on 1.4 percent of respondents. So much for conventional wisdom.

Another survey, by ChangeWave Research, ranks consumer satisfaction with newly purchased Macs at 81 percent "very satisfied." HP came in at 55 percent very satisfied, with 52 percent for Dell. The consumer space is very different than enterprise, but some of this satisfaction seems to be residing in the enterprise as well.

Noone predicts that Apple will escape the recession. A Piper Jaffray analyst predicted that Mac sales would experience 12 percent decline in February over the previous year. But in a list of the most cash-rich companies Apple came in third (behind Exxon and Cisco). Microsoft was seventh, Google 8th. Apple is doing something right. Comment below

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