Understanding Macs in the Enterprise

The resurgence of Apple, the Macintosh, and now the iPhone results in a continuous discussion of Appleis opportunities in the enterprise. However, Apple treats the enterprise differently than other companies do, and those who expect Apple to suddenly cater to the enterprise based on recent consumer successes need to have a good understanding of Appleis approach, according to Computerworld on Thursday.

Interest in Apple is rising dramatically amongst IT executives. As they seek to engage Apple to help them solve some of their problems and learn about the benefits of Appleis UNIX OS, they need to study how Apple as a company works, observed Robert Mitchell in a tour de force essay on the business issues associated with Apple as an enterprise vendor.

"Apple will tell you that they are focused on [the commercial business market], but at the end of the day, itis not a big priority for them," said David Daoud, an analyst at IDC. The reasons are historical.

1. Apple tends to focus on the product in a take it or leave it approach. Large enterprise customers have tough sledding when it comes to demands placed on the company for support of features and long term support. "Their strategy is to make a great computer thatis standards-compliant. If enterprises want to use it, great, but if they donit, thatis fine too," Charles Edge, an IT consultant, pointed out.

2. On the server side, Apple provides a wealth of technical support and capabilites in its Mac OS X Server, Xserve, Xserve RAID, XSan and server/client administration. They listen to their customers. Robust, inexpensive UNIX-based servers are attractive to many organizations. In addition, Apple has no client access licensing (CAL) fees. However, once again, when it comes to large data centers and massive installations, the customers donit find the same kind of broad product integration and customer hand holding theyire accustomed to with other companies.

3. Another area where enterprise customers blink is multiple sources. Many large corporations require the ability to have a second source as a backup. Even though Apple isnit going out of business any time soon, that legacy requirement is in place. Itis even used by some IT managers to resist change. Also, iron-clad support contracts for parts that can keep systems running for a long time are also problematic. Apple moves at a fast pace compared to the enterprise and seldom allows itself to be held in the past by enterprise requirements. [Over and above consumer laws.]

In summary, companies that invest the Mac platform can make it work wonders, and young engineers can come up with amazing, innovative solutions. However, so far, Apple hasnit made that leap to be a complete enterprise solution. "I donit think youill see a significant penetration into the traditional enterprise until Apple makes the strategic decision to go after that," said Tim Bajarin, president of the strategic consulting firm Creative Strategies.

TMO notes that the CW story is must reading for IT executives who want to start down a path of understanding how Apple does business with business. Without that deep understanding, frustration and disillusionment are likely to follow.