I was wrong. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) doesn't need the iPhone to win the enterprise -- Macs are doing the job just fine. A recent survey of 700 executives and corporate technology specialists found that eight in 10 businesses are now using Macs in some form.

Count IBM (NYSE:IBM) among the many. The IT department there asked two dozen researchers to use Macs for three months. More than 80% asked to keep their machines after the trial period ended in January. Big Blue has since commissioned another trial -- for 100 employees this time, trade magazine eWEEK reports.

What's that song from "The Jeffersons"?
I know; 100 workers isn't much for an organization that employs more than 386,000. That's not the point. For that, let's turn to Yankee Group analyst Laura DiDio, who conducted the most recent survey, as well as another from two years ago that found Macs to be roughly half as pervasive as they are today.

"Then, we were talking about onesies and twosies," DiDio told trade magazine ComputerWorld. "Now the number of actual users is very significant. A number of the businesses said that they had 50 or 100 or even several thousand Macs deployed."

Mac mavens like me understand how big this is. For years, we've been like the Loch Ness monster -- legendary, but rarely seen in firms overrun with Windows PCs. Why? Macs weren't for the business world. To be a Mac user, you had to be "creative" -- an artist, a graphic designer, a video producer. You know the type. Bricklayers used PCs. Rebels used Macs, or so the thinking went.

No longer. Once a lonely, Mac-toting Fool in a motley gathering of PC users, I've since been joined by Fool co-founder David Gardner. You'll find him exploring the depths of his machine on our Mac Users Group discussion board from time to time.

And David and I aren't alone. Retail writer Alyce Lomax uses a Mac when writing from home. Global Gains analyst Nate Parmelee researches stocks on his MacBook. Toby Shute uses a Mac to bring you the week's top solar stories. Call it the Cult of Mac, Fool-style.

Whither Mac?
Theories vary as to why the Mac is catching on now. The three most popular:

  1. Compatibility. Thanks to privately held Parallels and rebellious peer VMware (NYSE:VMW), as well as Apple's own Boot Camp feature, running Windows on a Mac is simpler today than it ever has been. The process is called virtualization, and it's easier to do when you're running a fast machine with lots of memory.
  2. Web applications. When salesforce.com (NYSE:CRM) CEO Marc Benioff argues that software-as-a-service -- otherwise known as software you access via a browser, rather than downloading and installing it -- is the end of software as we know it, it's bluster. But there's no dismissing the fact that more than 80,000 developers are working on his company's platform. That's a threat to incumbents such as Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL), no matter what SAP (NYSE:SAP) co-CEO Henning Kagermann says.
  3. Windows. Technology buyers are avoiding Vista. Intel won't even deploy it, News.com reports. Mix in dire predictions from Gartner analysts -- that Windows will collapse under its own weight -- and it's unsurprising to find IT managers taking a taste of Apple.

DiDio's respondents cited another reason: design. More than a quarter of firms surveyed said that they are running Windows on Apple hardware. "There's no doubt that user confidence in the reliability of both the Macintosh hardware and software products is having a tangible impact on corporate purchasing and deployment trends," she wrote in a report of her survey findings.

The Foolish bottom line
Windows still rules the PC realm. But, thanks to the iMac, the MacBook Pro, Mac OS X, and related geekery, Apple's rebellion has borne fruit, and enterprise customers are taking ever-bigger bites – iPhone or no.