The ruling by the European Court of First Instance dismissing Microsofts appeal of the European Commissions 2004 punishment could serve to make Apples Mac OS X a more appealing server solution in the enterprise.
The Courts decision against Microsoft, which upheld the Commissions finding that the Redmond, Wash., company abused its monopoly status and prevented full interoperability with other operating systems and mandated that Microsoft disclose information that would allow other server products to achieve feature parity.
"Currently, Mac OS X, Linux and Unix servers can access only a subset of the functionality" offered in a homogeneous Windows environment, said Matthew Sparby, a technology consultant in Minneapolis, Minn.
Specifically, Sparby said, the other systems cannot supply centralized client management tools, such as controlling client configurations and security options.
"In a complete Microsoft environment, you can control everything from the color of the desktop to whos allowed on the computer to what they do once logged on," he said. "From an enterprise management standpoint, you have to be able to lock down clients."
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Should Microsoft comply with the EUs decision and publish full server protocols, Sparby said, Mac OS X server products—including Mac OS X Server and the Xserve hardware—could gain these features.
Mac OS X includes the Samba (also known as SMB/CIFS) suite of communication applications that currently provide file sharing and printing support in heterogeneous computer networks.
"On the server side, Samba—if it incorporates the new protocols—would be a more effective solution," Sparby said.
And, he said, a Mac OS X-based server could be a price-conscious choice. A network running Windows clients and servers requires buying a license for each client. But, Sparby said, Mac OS X Server costs $499 for a 10-client and $999 for an unlimited client version. Windows has no such unlimited client version.
Neil Ticktin, publisher and editor-in-chief of MacTech magazine, agreed that the European courts ruling has "quite possibly a significant positive impact" for Apple.
"Not only because more people may be forced to look at other options, but more importantly, people may have the opportunity to see the cost savings with Mac OS X Server," Ticktin said. "Mac OS X Server has nice support for heterogeneous environments, including those typically served by Windows servers. And, since Apples flat pricing avoids per-seat charges that are common on the Windows side, the cost savings is substantial."
A developer who asked not to be named also said that Apple, of Cupertino, Calif., could benefit.
"Apple is mostly a free rider on the Windows networking open-source projects. Apple, by and large, does not put any effort into GPL projects. That doesnt mean they dont return code to the community, they just dont want to be forced to do so," he said. "That said, Apples inability to move up-market into light enterprise networking may be enabled by decreasing uncertainty of interoperating on Windows networking. Nonetheless, Apple would need to focus more on enterprise sales than they currently do. Since they are a consumer brand, I dont see them making this change either."
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