Apple in the Enterprise
Ars has an interesting article looking at whether Apple is making a bid for the enterprise. I’ll admit that Apple is first and foremost a consumer end user company. Traditionally they have not been about enterprise. I also admit that Windows has dominated this market and continues to, but I think the Ars article incorrectly assumes that Apple is making no efforts in the Enterprise market.
In the end, the question of Apple and the enterprise comes down to this: if Apple wanted to attack the enterprise, it has the bankroll to develop and hire the expertise to do so. But given that its consumer efforts are going so well, why bother?
So their assumption is two fold. A) they assume that shiny cool looking objects have no place in the business and B) that Apple is making no effort and why should this change.
In the old days a lot of organizations relied on Access databases and various other products that were entirely Windows only. Now organizations seem to be moving to web-based standards that better incorporate Mac and Linux machines. This can only be a good thing. Access databases were buggy, and the software wasn’t that great to start with. In today’s corporate environment there are many people happily using Mac OS in spite of a Windows strong hold. This is also true of the educational environment. IT shops realize more and more that multiple OS may be present and all need to be supported. So I see a general trend towards OS agnostic business. Of course that has nothing to do with Apple, but it works in Apple’s favor. The article also correctly points out that there is great dissatisfaction with the Vista upgrade. It is obvious on the consumer market as you see Apple and Linux grow in popularity, but on the IT side I have yet to hear of any organization (and I interviewed at several and worked at two different ones this year) migrate to Vista. The cost was too high and there were too many bugs in the initial Vista release (I could write a big article just on what made Vista bad and why we didn’t upgrade). So the stage seems set for Apple to swoop in and take over the enterprise. So why haven’t they?
I give Apple more credit than Ars. I think they have made huge efforts into the Enterprise world. First they now have OS X server. If you take the time to look at all of the features and white papers you will see that this is a full featured solution for a Mac network. It has authentication, email, calendaring, and much more. Now I grant you that most of this is either open source tools repackaged with a pretty gui or outright use of open source, but hey isn’t that what open source was designed for? Since OS X is a fully compliant Unix server they can run most of the open source software and why should they reinvent the wheel? The point is that this is more than an effort. This is a full solution and actually can be a solution for quite a few things outside of the Mac only world (podcasting and such). Significant effort was put into the latest 10.5 offering. Secondly look at the iPhone 2.0 software. Sure they weren’t able to give full Exchange support, but I believe that is more Microsoft’s fault than a lack of effort on Apple. Apple gave the iPhone VPN, WPA-Enterprise, and much more support in 2.0. All of those things were specifically designed with the enterprise in mind.
I think Ars is confusing Apple’s lack of movement as a lack of care. I think this is Apple being Apple. When have they ever shown care even in the consumer market? Apple wants you to come to them on their terms. Their entire ethos is built around telling you what you want, when you want it, and this is how much you will pay. Why should the enterprise be any different. Even Apple’s commercials aren’t that proactive, and since when have you seen Microsoft advertise extensively for enterprise either? Apple is doing just fine breaking into the corporate enterprise without selling itself or going against its morals. Why would Apple want to tap into this market? The enterprise market is huge, and slow to change. If Apple is able to take over the enterprise they ensure stability and annual income for many years to come. Companies are making the switch on their own. I work for a corporation that is largely Mac with a Linux infrastructure, and when I was in Education I warned my replacements that they would have to support Apple because you couldn’t stop the onslaught of user demand (Mac users were literally growing exponentially each year). I think the end result is that Vista is such a disaster for Microsoft that Apple is able to sit back and watch the market shift. The enterprise is always more conservative and slower to react, but you can certainly see even that shifting. Companies are moving toward Mac in the enterprise all on their own. So is it time for Apple in the enterprise? I certainly hope so. It would certainly help keep me employed longer.
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