eWEEK Labs Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant's year of using and covering Apple products in the enterprise has come to an end with a newfound respect for Mac hardware and the resistance of Mac OS X 10.6.3, code-named Snow Leopard, to hacks and viruses. For executives and high-value creative content users he sees Apple's appeal. But as we enter the cloud computing age, Sturdevant is less enamored of fat clients of any variety for routine office workers.
For just over a year I've used a variety of Apple
devices-from the Xserve and Mac Pro to the iPhone and MacBook Pro-and even a Mac
Mini-as my primary work systems in a Windows-oriented IT shop.
I made the switch because Apple PCs and iPhones-and now
iPads-are coming into the enterprise. I wanted to travel with IT managers who
were acquiring skills and products to effectively manage these alluring, adept
client devices that captivate the hearts and minds of high-value, and therefore
important to please, employees.
With the help of desktop virtualization tools that enabled
me to easily access my e-mail via the Microsoft Outlook client running on a
Windows 7 virtual machine, my experience showed that a longtime Windows user
can adjust to life on a Mac. I didn't become a fanboy, but I experienced the
endorphin rush that most Mac users speak of when things "just
I'm turning the "Apple in the Enterprise"
beat over to the capable P. J. Connolly, who recently joined our Lab staff.
Connolly is a seasoned Mac user and brings a background of Apple coverage to
eWEEK. He will continue our Mac-oriented product reviews and IT-oriented Apple
As I reflect on the important lessons I learned during my
travel through the land of Apple,
I still wonder about the usefulness of the fat client to the bulk of business
IT. And it is this questioning that holds me back from fandom either for
Apple's "Snow Leopard" operating system or Microsoft's Windows 7, the
operating system I started using full-time today. But before I go too far into
future musings on the changes in store for end-user computing, here are the
lessons I learned from my year on Macs.
First, it was great to not worry about antivirus protection.
My Mac got security updates-many of which required a reboot-almost as often as
the Windows systems running in eWEEK Labs, but I never had to wait for a virus
signature update or a pesky system scan. It was strangely odd to bank, check my
credit card and shop online without really worrying about the security or
safety of the personal computer (I was reminded many times by Apple users that
Macs are PCs) I was using to visit those sites.
Second, it was awesome to have stuff "just work."
This was true for my Mac desktop and server systems as well as my iPhone. As
much as I like to tinker with a PC or phone, from an IT operations point of view,
having applications install and work correctly was a luxurious experience.
Finally, my MacWorld experience showed that enterprise management
tools for Apple products
are bobbing to the surface. IT managers in regulated
industries should acquire tools that bring the Mac into the management fold for
compliance reasons. Configuration management tools are also available to help
ensure that required software and patches are available so end users can
concentrate on work, not system management.
Although Apple and Microsoft marketing encourages a childish
snarling contest between the platforms, my experience showed me that IT
managers must take a no-nonsense approach to system management. Once a
corporate decision is made to support multiple desktop operating systems,
there's no way a fan-based attitude toward one OS is going to make it easy or
cheap to manage a second or third platform.
Despite the fun I had learning my Mac systems, what is
becoming clear is that as I do more work on hosted applications my end-user
priorities are shifting. In my changing enterprise world I care more about
display size, network response time and remote printer support than whether my
local PC is running Snow Leopard, Windows 7 or Linux.