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Just A Thought
by Vern Seward

IT Winds Are Shifting; Is That A Hint Of Apple Blossom In The Air?
September 15th, 2003

I don't know how astute you are -- how tuned in to the world around you may be -- but you don't have to have the sensibilities of a yogi to discern a subtle change in the air, a new sound in the wind, a novel hue in the light that shines on the world of Apple.

I promise, I haven't touch any unprescribed drugs (lately), nor am I staring at the insides of my eyelids while contemplating my navel, and, as far as I know, I wasn't dropped on my head as an infant. Of course, that last statement would explain a lot, but that's another story.

What I'm talking about is hardly mystical, but it sure is peculiar, and interesting. The change I'm detecting is the subtle shift in focus in the IT world from Windows to anything non-Windows. Of particular interest to those of us in the Mac world is the increasing attention being paid by IT professionals to our platform of choice. I'm not talking about your local pasty faced geek whose aversion to sunshine is only matched by his love of Linux and his hatred of Big Redmond, although these pallid denizens of the wiring closet have sometimes been known to be closet Mac fans. No, I'm talking about IT writing pros; guys and girls whose business it is to keep other IT pros informed. These ladies and gentlemen write columns for major IT-centric magazine, books so fill with tech-speak that non-techies need an interpreter just for the prolog, and they speak at conventions where they are treated like rock stars.

These Überpros have taken sudden and positive notice of Apple's offerings, many actually drop-kicking their Windows machines for shiny new Macs. When PC lovin' David Coursey took a serious look at OS X and Macs in general, many others took notice, but the dam hadn't broken yet; it just sprung a few leaks. Over the year following his conversion, OS X has improved, Macs have gotten even better, and now there's the G5 Power Mac. All of this and Apple's steady, though understated, advertising campaign in IT magazines is finally beginning to bear fruit.

Recently, Douglas Schweitzer, IT security guru and author of many IT security books, picked up a new eMac and reports that:

After using the eMac for the better part of a month now, I can truly say that it's as fast, as stable and as secure as the Apple representative promised it would be. Immune to most malicious code currently in circulation, my new Mac comes with a vast array of built-in help files and for those with some computer experience it requires a relatively short time to learn and master. In fact, after only a week of use, I was able to pass Brainbench's MAC OS X Computer Fundamental test at the master level.

There's InfoWorld columnist, Chad Dickerson, who, after taking home an older Mac running OS X and discovering its versatility, says:

...I used the Mac running OS X to replace a PC client and Linux server; the level of functionality was raised; and I did more with less. All the GNU and Unix tools I've used for years were right there in OS X: ps (process status), rsync, top, SSH (secure shell), Apache, Samba, and various Unix shells. I was able to access Windows file systems, and I easily shared Mac files to the Windows machine on my network via Samba, the open source file-sharing stalwart. I hardly struggled even for a second.

Of course, a small, successful integration project on a small network in one CTO's home hardly merits a mass OS migration at a Fortune 500 company, but my experience with the Mac at home forced me to re-examine my preconceptions. I'm grounded in reality, so I'm not expecting to replace all the Windows XP desktops and the Windows 2000 file/print servers at InfoWorld any time soon. Still, the next time I'm facing a mass desktop and network OS migration decision, Mac OS X will be on the list.

Then, there's the folks over at Hardware Analysis who tend to focus on the Wintel World, but recently took a look at a PowerBook G4 and concluded:

Okay, you might ask yourself where the benchmarks are, why we haven't put the PowerBook G4 against an Intel Centrino notebook and how the battery performed while using it during these couple of days. To be honest, I just didn't bother, as I wanted to write down my personal experience with the PowerBook G4, and how it fared in the hands of a PC user. In all honesty I must say I'm impressed, I remember working on Macs when I was still in college and those weren't really pleasant to work with. This PowerBook G4 definitely has a lot going for it, an excellent design, intuitive OS and plenty of processing power for all your everyday tasks.

Would I buy one? To be honest, I wouldn't. Simply because the price is too high, or rather the price/performance ratio is not good enough. For the $3299 pricetag I can also buy two state-of-the-art Intel Centrino based notebooks, which might not look as good, nor have a 17'' widescreen monitor, but will still get the job done. That doesn't mean I would not want to own one, it is just that in my opinion it is overpriced. In essence the PowerBook G4 uses a lot of PC technology with an excellent design, a really nice case, a great OS and seamlessly integrates that into a smooth and fast machine. Is that worth the pricetag? Not for me, but I'm sure other people would disagree with me, and I frankly can't blame them, as the PowerBook G4 is an excellent product.

OK, 2 out of 3 ain't bad, but it illustrates my point: The PC elite have taken notice of the Mac and they like what they see.

So what? Big Deal! Right? Yep, it is.

It is absolutely a big deal. These are only recent examples of IT eyes peering longingly at Apple. The guys and gals at 1 Infinite Loop have been trying to figure out how to get accepted, not as another IT variable, something else IT managers must worry about, but as a true choice and a valuable commodity in the IT world. It seems they are beginning to make some headway.

Linux can offer CIOs an option when considering development platforms or servers, but, when it comes to the desktop, Linux still is not up to the challenge; Macs and OS X are. IT gurus who deal with Windows and UNIX systems daily can use a machine that understands both worlds; one that can take a Word document, for instance, read and modify it natively, save it to a SAMBA exported filed system or a Windows shared drive or folder, all while running an X11 app in the next window. You can do these thing on a Windows machine, but not without first going through a lot of setup, tweaking, and praying. Macs running OS X can do it out of the box; Rip open the carton, plug it in, and BAM! There ya' go!

One of the cool things about being an IT guru is that you can usually get access to some of the latest equipment. That these Überpros picked Macs (some of them anyway) as their systems of choice says a lot to the IT world. Macs are no longer the IT equivalent of a bastard stepchild; ignored and often scorned. What these people are saying is that if its more than good enough for them, then Macs deserve at least another serious look.

Ahh, the Winds of Change. Do I detect the scent of apple blossoms in that breeze? I believe I do!

is a writer who currently lives in Orlando, FL. He's been a Mac fan since Atari Computers folded, but has worked with computers of nearly every type for 20 years.

You can send your comments directly to me, or you can also post your comments below.

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