Fishing For Fusion: Apple's IT Grassroots Efforts May Bear Fruit

I got a note the other day from Louis Gray, Marketing Manager for BlueArc Corporation, vendors of Storage Area Network solutions. The note pointed me to his companyis newsletter in which the Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Geoff Barrall, wrote a commentary titled "UNIX ... Finally On the Desktop?," and had a lot of nice things to say about OS X. At first glance I thought, "Interesting, but not something TMO readers will care about too much." After reading the newsletter, however, I had a small epiphany. (The small ones donit hurt as much.) Let me explain:

We see Apple advertising now more than ever. Ads appear in IT trades, on the tube between innings and plot pauses, and in some mainstream press. Thatis all very good and very much needed, but thereis another avenue of advertising that has historically served Apple well, and it appears that it continues to be an avenue of importance to the company: word of mouth.

A few days ago I got a newsletter from Apple, as Iim sure many of you did. In that news letter Apple asks us, Mac owners, to help "spread the word." It said:

As a Mac user, you know the reasons why so many people have chosen to use a Mac: theyire powerful, theyire fun, and they donit get in the way of your work. They also work well with PCs in mixed-platform environments. But many PC users are unaware of all the things you can do with a Mac.

To change this, Apple recently launched an ad campaign featuring real stories from real people who have upgraded their computing experience by switching from PC to Mac. Weive accompanied these ads with lots of information about why people should think about switching to a Mac and how to do it on the new Switch tab at

And if you know someone who might benefit from learning more about switching to a Mac, click the "Tell a friend to switch" link on the main Switch page to send them an e-mail.

Letis go back to BlueArcis newsletter for a moment. As I said, it was interesting, but one particular paragraph caught my eye:

The computer company with the best reputation for easy to use computing, Apple Computer, has entered the UNIX marketplace with their latest operating system, Mac OS X. Mac OS X is based on a derivative of BSD Unix called Darwin. In a recent conversation with a friend of mine, he told me how he used SSH to log into his office servers from his motheris computer. The Apple computer was easy enough to use so that his computer-illiterate mother could do her e-mail, but also powerful enough to enable a true development environment and cross-platform UNIX computing. In my mind, Apple may have made the ultimate in useable UNIX workstations, and to boot, it can natively run Microsoft Office, historically a barrier to UNIX adoption on the desktop.

Now, this is what I saw: hereis an IT exec who is used to dealing with the likes of Sun, IBM, and HP, and some friend pointed him to a Mac running OS X and said, "Dude, check out how cool OS X is. I can do UNIX and run Office. Rock on!" The exec likes OS X so much the he felt compelled to tell his customers about it.

Iim wondering if this is what Apple is seeing too, or hope to see. The iSpread the Wordi e-mail and the newsletter from BlueArc is the effect that Apple may be trying to achieve in the IT world. Thereis a critical mass that must be achieved for Appleis grass roots efforts to work, a fusion process based on a small group of IT pro OS X users. Like a fusion reaction where a small amount of energy and matter in produces a larger amount of energy out, so too will this core group of IT pros, given the proper exposure to OS X and Macs, release a huge undercurrent of pro-Mac sentiment among other IT folks.

Think of how the BlueArc newsletter commentary will be received, and by whom. People who deal with desktops systems and home users will likely never see that newsletter, the target audience is IT pros, people who know what SANs are, who know the difference between a LAN, WAN, and MAN, who routinely operate on the command line (and like it), and who understand the implications of having an OS that can seamlessly bridge the gap between Microsoftis desktop monopoly and UNIX/Linux server kingdoms.

Itis not an easy thing to start a fusion reaction -- scientists and others have been trying to do it for years without a lot of success. They continue trying to find the right combination of materials and energies that will ultimately sustain itself and release the abundant energy locked away in bits of matter. Converting the IT masses to see Macs as a viable UNIX workstation and server is equally tough, but perhaps Apple is on to something. It has the right materials in OS X and new hardware, if it can just find the right advertising energies, a new star will be born.

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