Apple's Embrace of Scientific Community is Good for Business

Appleis recent success with consumer electronics tends to distract enterprise customers from the UNIX and open source foundation of Mac OS X. Even so, that hasnit stopped Apple from making serious inroads into the science communities where the UNIX side of Mac OS X has a strong base of support, according to Ecommerce Times on Tuesday.

Apple has a habit of working on some things quietly, until they spring forth with irresistible momentum. The certification of Mac OS X as UNIX, the price to performance ratio of their Xserves, and the switch to Intel chips which gives better Windows compatibility are all part of a quiet effort that has won converts in the scientific communities, especially medicine and physics/astronomy.

Itis not by accident that these disciplines rely heavily on scientific computaton and visualization. For example, the Harvard Initiative in Innovative Computing (IIC) has focused on Apple technologies in their astronomy program.

"What we really wanted was peer collaboration. The future of traditional disciplines of science -- life sciences, physical sciences and medicine -- depends on advances in computational science in the same way that we depended on instrumentation in the previous century.... Harvard IIC was the outgrowth of this," said Alyssa Goodman, director of IIC.

Another merely typical example is the use of 3-D imaging at the Hartford Hospital Stroke Center.

Apple is making changes in other small ways that often go under the radar. Recent changes to the Mac OS X server license allow the virtualization of Mac OS X, multiple copies running simultaneously, on a single Xserve. Other technologies, like NetBoot, provide attractive solutions for both business and scientific cluster users. The common thread is open Internet and UNIX standards that provide great interoperability and migration tools.

The net result of this quiet technolgy development porgram has been a rich repertoire of solutions that are discovered when enterprise customers start to look for alternatives to their current systems. "I donit expect them to build out an enterprise sales force," said Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg. Even so, he sees growing numbers of larger businesses taking a close look at Appleis technology.

Scientists have been doing that ever since Mac OS X shipped, and they like what theyive seen Apple do in the last six years. "It only bodes well for them in terms of business adoption," Mr. Gartenberg said, referring to Appleis standards-based approach.

The real key to understanding Appleis success in support of science is distinguishing when proprietary code for some high level OS applications fades in relative importance and doesnit really affect scientific computation in a standards-based UNIX OS on a 64-bit platform.