Apple's Integration into the Enterprise

Loraine Lawson
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The Legacy of Steve Jobs

For Steve Jobs, it was about creating magical products - things that were as much a part of his fancy as they were part of the real world.

Steve Jobs is being eulogized in every medium today - as he should be. If we can call personal computers a revolution in technology, then Steve Jobs is one of the founding fathers.


I read the news of his death, fittingly enough, on my iPhone - as I was waiting to learn if I'd ruined my netbook. I'd already decided if it was dead, I was immediately buying a Mac Pro or Mac Air - I kid you not - nearly 15 years after abandoning Macs for PCs.


Of course, Twitter was abuzz with the news and tributes, including this lovely note from Bill Gates. Being a blogger, I knew it'd be hard to write about anything else today. But being an integration blogger, I wasn't sure what I could say.


After all, Apple and Steve Jobs may have meant a lot of things over the years to technology, but "being a team player" by integrating with other tech solutions certainly wasn't one of them. I remember when techies referred to Apples as "toy computers" and sneered at the very idea that they be allowed equal footing on the desktop as Windows-based PCs. Part of that was many of the techies were trained only in Windows, at Microsoft-sponsored training centers, but part of that was Apple's fault, too. "Proprietary" was the name of the game with Apple, which insisted on retaining control over both hardware and software. Unless you were in the newspaper or another graphic-focused industry-and I was-to buy a Mac meant you couldn't play any of the really cool games or buy the hot software. For instance, back in the '90s, there was no Quicken for Macs.


Back then, it was Apple versus Windows, and all it took was a trip to Wal-Mart to see which one the fates favored. Plus, Apple was ridiculously expensive compared to PCs. I know they're still more expensive, but back then I don't think I could've found a PC that cost as much as a Mac. So when I left newspapers, I left Mac.


I'm sure there were a lot of reasons for Apple's lean years-but I really suspect their bone-headed insistence on controlling everything darn near killed them. And I'm sure there are market experts who can explain why Apple re-emerged as a top-notch technology player-but I do know the rise of gadgets played a role, and I can't help but think this is when Apple's dogmatic adherence to control paid off. For instance, when I wanted a smartphone, I soon saw that the quality of the hardware varied greatly and I'd need to spend a lot of time researching the issue if I didn't want a dud. What's more, there was little to no money to be saved by going with another operating system. So, I bought an iPhone. And it helped me remember how much I missed Macs.


A lot has changed over the years when it comes to Macs and business IT, although it's not as easy to have a Mac instead of a PC as it should be. Certainly, they've made headway, as I shared last year - and this year, Apple products were expected to make serious gains in enterprise adoption. I do know the iPad and iPhone are dominating in enterprise adoption, in much the same way Microsoft originally dominated enterprise PCs, so I'd like to think IT wouldn't be quite so blatantly contemptous if you asked for one as they were with me in 2003.


Under Jobs' leadership, Apple claimed an indifference to enterprises, but in honor of his passing, here's a round-up of the Apple integration issues and news we've covered at ITBE:

In 2007, the iPhone raised the question of whether Apple was ready to play in the enterprise space. "The most telling signs will be the evolution of the device itself," said Carl Weinschenk. "E-mail is the most basic of corporate needs, so how Apple approaches its integration into the corporate infrastructure will be a sure sign of its attitude."

In 2008, Apple was gaining ground in the enterprise. Why? In part, because virtualization makes it easier to integrate Macs into Windows environments. Still, Macs are considered an "integration challenge" for IT.


In 2009, Apple was solidifying on its consumer-focused strategy and the rumor was it would give up on the enterprise front. That would be a win and a loss for businesses, wrote Arthur Cole in 2009. It'd be a loss, because overall, Macs have a lower total cost of ownership, he wrote, but a loss because of integration issues. "The main problem most organizations have with Macs isn't the machines themselves, but folding them into the larger Windows world," Cole said. "Things like integration with Active Director, file sharing, configuration consistency and application compatibility rank tops among admin complaints."


In 2010, Apple was bypassing IT to forge its own path into the enterprise, observed Rob Enderle. "It's not only starting at the top, but also ignoring IT entirely. The executive influencers love this path, which creates risks for both IT and for the enterprise vendors that dominate this market." It was also working quietly with systems integrators to push into the enterprise space.

This year, 2011, has so far seen tablet adoption on the rise and, once again, Apple took a different approach to marketing its iPad. "Apple also doesn't have an enterprise bundle to sell," ZDNet reported. "Apple has a small enterprise swat team that targets verticals like legal and convinces them to go with the iPhone-iPad juggernaut." How the iPad can be used with SAP was among the use cases the team pushed. Also in 2011, data integration companies began offering iPhone apps for managing integration.


Jobs took Apple from toy computers to executive essentials, and managed to make Apple products a force that IT had to reckon with and, yes, integrate. That in and of itself is impressive enough.


Rest in peace, Jobs. You've certainly earned it.

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