Apple in the Enterprise: Is It Real This Time?

Arthur Cole

So is it finally real? Is Apple making a serious play for the enterprise, or is it just a lot of wishful thinking on behalf of Mac partisans?

As a fan of the Mac and the design philosophy that Mac stands for in general, my sympathies lie with the former, but the more practical, analytical side of me can't help but admit that the latter is closer to reality. Here's why:

While it's true that Apple has made some appealing upgrades in both its Leopard operating system and gadgets like the iPhone, it hardly qualifies as a full-blown run at the enterprise. The new OS X, dubbed Snow Leopard, shows the most promise. It adds things like Mobile Access Server that provides much-needed encryption and authentication for iPhones and private networks, plus Wiki Server 2 and Address Book Server aimed at further integrating iPhones into the enterprise work day.

You also get full 64-bit UNIX support, which doubles the speed of the current Leopard for faster performance with such crucial tools as Mail, Finder and the new Safari 4 Web browser. And in recognition of who plays the leading role in the enterprise right now, the system supports Microsoft Exchange Server, easing that most common of Apple-in-the-enterprise complaints: incompatibility with legacy infrastructure.

It all sounds impressive, but is it enough? Sadly, no. As Bola Rotibi of Macehiter Ward-Dutton explained to Redmond Developer News, platforms live and die by third-party application support, and the fact is that the major developers, at least, aren't likely to go very far out on a limb for Apple when they have a proven environment from Microsoft. That could change in the future, she says, but not until Mac can overcome the perception that the enterprise is a secondary concern.

How can it do that? Nothing less than a concerted effort across multiple fronts will truly accomplish the job. Pete Mortensen, who specializes in corporate growth strategies, says a three-pronged approach that emulates the successes of other enterprise providers would be a good start. He suggests going with cheaper PCs and laptops using standardized components, partnerships with established enterprise vendors and, most importantly, an end to the secrecy surrounding product development. The surprise factor at MacWorld may work with consumers, but IT executives need to build their capital budgets months ahead of time, and they absolutely will not take risks on unknown hardware and software.

The one thing you can't fault Apple on, however, is design and engineering quality. The company has a reputation for simplicity and elegance, but in the business world that simply isn't enough. Systems also need to be cheap and have the flexibility to work with third-party technology.

Apple certainly has the in-house capability to become a serious enterprise player if it wants to, but it will take more than throwing a few bones into its operating system to do that.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jun 11, 2009 6:27 PM Roger Hansen Roger Hansen  says:

"...most importantly, an end to the secrecy surrounding product development. The surprise factor at MacWorld may work with consumers, but IT executives need to build their capital budgets months ahead of time, and they absolutely will not take risks on unknown hardware and software..."

I cut the above statement from your article.  Interesting that you state secrecy surrounding product development.  Sure, Apple keeps things secret, but if the Microsoft way of partnering with IT executives and let them know what's being developed and then DON'T deliver is better?  And when Microsoft does deliver, it's full of bugs, lacks security and is less stable than the previous?  Apple is light years ahead of Microsoft on developing OS's that are actually delivered when promised and quality (stability/security) when delivered.  Gartner just stated to SKIP Vista and wait for Windows 7?  Quit giving Microsoft millions to develop OS's that are not stable or secure.  If you don't think Apple is ready for the enterprise, give Open Source a try, Microsoft is only raping your earnings and destroying your IT budgets.

Jun 12, 2009 10:19 AM Kevin Kevin  says: in response to Roger Hansen

To the above comments, Apple should find it much easier to develop... who wouldn't on proprietary hardware? If Microsoft had control of the hardware the OS was built on, it would have a lot less to worry about. I agree Vista is nothing compared to Windows 7. Have it installed and it is much faster than WinXP SP3... and this is just the RC.

Bottom line, if Mac wants to maintain the "Genius" and elitist status, it should stear clear of supporting 3rd party components/PCs/Servers and leave that to the big boys in Redmond.

I should clarify that i love the iPhone and it knocks the socks off any Windows Mobile device... I'm not a Mac hater, but get a kick out of how Mac lovers love to blash MS when the playing field is so different between the 2 companies with apples to oranges advantages on both sides.

Jun 17, 2009 7:23 PM techieg techieg  says: in response to Kevin

Well, there is no need to rev up dust on Apple vs Microsoft, it has become an endless holy war with a clear winner being Microsoft simply because it holds over 90% of the world's computers and has locked down the enterprise eve living room entertainment (with Media Center, wait till you see what's coming on Windows 7, scroll down this link and take a peek here and please let me know if the so-called AppleTV compares...so much for light years ahead; http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=836519&highlight=vgx+xl3&page=47). The world has spoken, let it rest. While I love competition because it is a win win win deal for consumers because the manufacturers compete with the best features, Apple has not proven to be ready to compete in any arena; in the home or enterprise. If not for Microsoft, we will still be light years behind. Talk is really cheap and that is all Apple and its supporters do instead of delivering competing products in every arena instead of just wanting to sell overpriced laptops and desktops.

Jun 18, 2009 4:50 PM Frank Sudore Frank Sudore  says: in response to techieg

The reason why people are afraid of Apple is number one: JOB SECURITY.

I am an IT manager at an all Apple office. 2 Xserves, 50 Apple clients, 10 Windows. The initial outlay of the equipment was 70% higher than going with Windows or Open source. But the big picture is the future, The Macs depreciate at a much slower rate. (There are work stations 5 years old running current OS)

Also it TAKES LESS SUPPORT PERSONNEL  to maintain. I don't have to spend thousands a year on anti spyware/virus licenses not to mention the down time updates and crashes that always occur. And we run all Microsoft applications from Office to Visio.

Now the downside, Mail is very weak. If they fix and add an exchange like feature then they are going to hit a home run.

On top of being Unix based I have added some open source solutions such as a Super Micro NAS running open filer to which i back everything up using Time Machine via ISCI.

Apple does need to make some improvements no doubt, but to say they are not ready for Enterprise I would be willing to give anybody a free tour of my office.

Jun 18, 2009 7:28 PM techieg techieg  says: in response to Frank Sudore

Perhaps readers should also read about comparison between the new Apple Snow Leopard vs Windows 7 to sort of understand how they each place in the IT arena; http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Windows/Apples-Snow-Leopard-or-Microsofts-Windows-7-Which-Is-Better-for-the-Enterprise-116999/?kc=EWKNLNAV06112009STR1

And by the way, you don;t have to spend tons of money to maintain Windows systems if your people know what they are doing. Any network, regardless of platform requires IT personnel and NO platform is secure. Also, when industry gurus say Apple is not ready for the enterprise they mean Macs (both laptops and desktops) do not have required enterprise features to match what is currently in in use and in demand. Furthermore, Apple offers nothing in the way of enterprise class servers to meet business need because people who try to run Apple servers usually have to borrow from Linux, whether it is a backup solution like Openfiler or an email server such as Dovecot or Zimbra. Even Apple networks have Windows computers to fill the gap that Macs lacks. And instead of looking for ways to enhance their so-called XServers with "Exchange-like" mail features, they just added Exchange connection features to their the new Snow Leopard to try to entice enterprise users, but still does not do it for them. On the other hand, Windows networks have readily available servers of any kind on any hardware you want for any business need, all centrally managed in AD. Apple even borrow applications from its competitor such as MS Office suite, MS Exchange, etc. Bottomline is Apple only dwells on under-featured and over-priced laptops and desktops + wannabe smartphone (iPhone) an wannabe media center (AppleTV) and borrows everything else both from Open source and Microsoft to add to itself.

The big picture is not "the future" as you mention because the whole idea is not about selling the computers your business use in an auction or market, the big picture is software functionality for mission critical applications and compatibility with software businesses need to use since enterprises replace their systems after a certain number of years anyway without care for resale value. They donate the equipment for tax rebates for the most part. Also, don't worry about spending on anti-virus anymore because Microsoft is working on free anti-virus for Windows systems (which should be centrally manageable), read; http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Windows/Microsoft-Free-AntiVirus-Software-Morro-Coming-Soon-440604/?kc=EWKNLNAV06122009STR2

Fear of job security is not a factor in choosing windows because fact is if Apple owns 90% of IT market share as Microsoft does, of course more Apple systems will have issues. I have been in a small team of 2 (two) IT support personnel in an office of 200 people on a an all Windows network and all was fine, mainly because the network was built solid from ground up. Everything from NAS servers, to library management software were all managed by Windows up to even the server room temp controls.

I use Vista in my living room with my 46" Sony HDTV and surround sound and the media center is awesome for everything form TV, music, videos, pictures, PC gaming, web browsing, and everything else a regular PC does, right in my living room, I can't wait for the full release of Windows 7.

Let's rest the matter and let each company prove their worth by bringing forth innovative products both for the enterprise and home users.


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