Autodesk Goes Back to Macs: Good Tidings for Apple in Corporate IT


After an 18-year hiatus from the Mac, software maker Autodesk (ADSK) this week rolled out a Mac version of its market-leading AutoCad professional engineering and design program. Autodesk is by far the leading player in the computer assisted design (CAD) products market and its products are now the standard design and engineering software for huge swathes of the marketplace.

This move by Autodesk bodes extremely well for Apple's (AAPL) ability to tap the corporate IT market, a coveted plum but one that has largely resisted the charms of the Cupertino wunderkinds. Should other major software makers follow suit, Apple could leverage these software roll-outs to try to sells Macs to business, a niche that is generally more profitable and more reliable than sales to consumers.

Apple has long struggled to sell into the corporate computing marketplace. This has been frustrating for Apple, as the company has long sought to crack the lucrative enterprise IT space with a continuous stream of servers and other products targeting big IT. The trouble was, big IT didn't love Apple back and the reason was simple: the lack of business-specific software. In a self-fulfilling prophecy, big software companies had nearly universally deemed Apple and its Mac computing platform insignificant due to the relatively small market size of Apple's PCs in the corporate sector.

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Even today, Apple comprise a small single-digit (if that) percentage of annual U.S. corporate IT sales of laptops, desktops and other computing hardware. Because software companies refused to code enterprise applications for Macs, corporations steered clear Apple's hardware products fearing that using a Mac meant scrambling for the right software systems to support their business. The big exception, of course, was the creative fields (primarily movies, advertising and graphic design). However, even that limited area powers outsize profits for Apple. The most profitable product in Apple's line, in fact, is the MacPro desktop PC, primarily purchased by creative types and agencies. Should Autocad help tip the scales towards more enterprise software for Macs, Apple could sell a far larger number of profitable desktops than expected in the next five years.