If the latest surveys are any guide, you'll soon be hard-pressed to find an enterprise that hasn't incorporated the Macintosh and OS X into their environments. But while that may be good news for Apple, it might be a bit premature to declare the Mac a full-fledged partner in the business world -- at least until the company addresses some critical issues that continue to dog the platform.
First, the numbers: The Yankee Group says that fully 80 percent of enterprise executives say they are using the Mac and OS X in one form or another, with nearly a third saying they plan to increase usage over the next year.
All indications are that Apple will continue to enthusiastically embrace the Wintel universe. Early scouting reports of the upcoming OS X 10.6 say the system won't simply be compatible with Intel processors, but will require them. The heir apparent will likely be the Core 2 Duo, which will come as welcome news to those with the latest Macs, although anyone with the earlier PowerPC models might, emphasize might, be left out in the cold.
Elsewhere in the enterprise, a number of technologies are emerging to help the Mac play nice with legacy environments. One of them is new Mac runtime support for the Curl Internet application framework. The company is offering a free download that will allow its environment to run on PowerPC and Intel Macs using at least OS 10.4. The company says it made the move due to the rising number of its Windows and Linux customers that were bringing Macs on board.
The Mac is also the recipient of expanding network support. Late last month, Studio Network Solutions (SNS) gained certification for its Ellipse Enterprise HBAs to work in MAC OS X/LSI storage environments. The move brings a new level of fault tolerance, multi-pathing I/O and failover capabilities available in the LSI Redundant Disk Array Controller (RDAC) platform.
But while the enterprise may be good for the Mac, is the Mac necessarily a benefit to the enterprise? Tech writer Lynn Greiner says there are good reasons -- seven of them, to be exact -- to hold off on Mac deployments for now. Some of these are the old canards about the Mac's cost and proprietary nature, although she does make a case for the platform's tricky relationship with the Internet and the fact that Intel Macs can still get bogged down trying to run some traditional Mac applications.
Even one of the major arguments in favor of the Mac -- that it forges a link to many of the Apple consumer products that are coming into the enterprise -- may have hit a snag. While the compatibility issue is not in question, the overall value of some of the new Mac goodies, like the iPhone, may be overstated. Issues like security, e-mail support and even the fact that it lacks a replaceable battery limit its overall usefulness to the enterprise.
The upshot is that even if the Mac is making inroads to the enterprise, it still has a long way to go before it reaches anything close to parity with Windows or Linux.