Apple, Microsoft and the Enterprise


Will 2009 be the year that Apple finally gets serious about the enterprise? And will enterprise users embrace the company along with, or instead of, their Windows platforms? And can anyone believe anything in the trade press these days considering the aggressive marketing campaigns at work?


It's all starting to sound like a bad Batman rerun. "Tune in tomorrow to find out if Steve Ballmer is really The Joker in disguise!"


Unfortunately, there's no way to tell how the Mac will function in a primarily Windows or Linux environment once the decision to deploy has been made. As this piece in Computerworld points out, for every user with a positive experience, there are those who encounter endless problems with integration, poor customer support and the fact that Apple no longer has its own storage hardware.


But there are signs, small signs but signs nonetheless, that things could be changing in Cupertino. Apple Insider combed through the company's latest SEC filings and found references to a renewed focus on small and medium-sized business, enterprise and government users, educational institutions and other professional markets. Last year's filings talked a lot about forging "digital lifestyles" for consumers. It remains to be seen whether this represents a true shift in strategy, but at least it's something.


Still, it could be difficult to tell exactly what is happening out in the wider world, considering some of the dirty tricks coming out of Microsoft in its effort to quell Mac enthusiasm. ZDNet blogger David Morgenstern tells of a letter he received from a Microsoft marketing affiliate offering $15,000 for any Mac aficionado willing to trash the platform in print. If true, it would underline Microsoft's inability to comprehend the sheer devotion, if not outright fanaticism, that Mac users have for the system.


To date, though, most criticism of Macs in the enterprise has centered around how it would interact with non-Apple platforms -- primarily the Windows/Linux/UNIX/Solaris systems in the server and the Windows/Linux OSes on the majority of desktops. But that may be missing the point. With the iPhone emerging as the most popular mobile device and a new generation of wireless workers hitting the workforce, it just may be that the enterprise infrastructure of old will no longer be the primary means of exchanging information. As the iPhone gains in the enterprise, whose technology offers the best support for it?


Food for thought.