Apple Goes Enterprise

By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2008-01-15

Apple Goes Enterprise

If you listen to some people-Microsoft-Apple has about as much business being in the office as the New York Yankees would have playing in the National Football League championship. Which is to say: none at all.

These folks will tell you that Apple is all about the sizzle, and not about the steak. Or, to put it another way, they might concede that Apple knows how to out-design everyone, but underneath the pretty exteriors, you'll find old, shopworn ideas.

To all these people may I say: Get a Clue.

Before looking at what Jobs announced Jan. 15, let's take a quick look at what Apple has done in the last few weeks. First, it introduced Leopard, its new operating system. I didn't like Leopard at first. On the other hand, I hated Vista. But, here's the important difference between Apple and Microsoft. Apple, within a month, fixed Leopard's major problems. We're still waiting for Microsoft to release Vista SP1 more than a year after Vista went to manufacturing.

Microsoft also likes to talk about how many people (note how they tip-toe around the word "businesses") have already adopted Vista. Steve Jobs noted in his Macworld keynote that 20 percent of the Mac's installed base has already upgraded. It certainly sounds to me like users think that Leopard is ready to go, which is more than can be said for Vista.

Apple, of course, is also a hardware company. If speed, speed and more speed is what you want, it looks to me like both on the desktop, with the new Mac Pros, and on the server, with the Mac Pro Xserve, Apple is going to be hard to beat. I mean, we're talking dual Intel quad-core Xeon 5400 (aka Harpertown) processors. Better still, thanks to Parallels Server, which is on its way now, you can really put all eight of their cores to use by virtualizing multiple instances of Mac OS server, Linux, Solaris or, if you insist, Windows Server.

Has the day finally come when you might seriously consider using Macs in your server room? Why, yes it has. And if you think not having AD (Active Directory) compatibility is a show-stopper, think again. Macs, Linux and Windows can all work with AD now.

A Third Kind of Notebook

Finally, there's the news Jobs announced Jan. 15. No, not the iPhone news, although that's pretty nifty. I'm talking about the MacBook Air, which Jobs called "a third kind of notebook." Now, first let me say that when it comes to serious notebook use, I'm a big fan of ThinkPads. Yes, they're more expensive, but they're built like little tanks, and, better still from where I sit, Lenovo is finally selling models with preinstalled Novell SLED (SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop) 10.

But, oh me, oh my, that MacBook Air also has some of the features I love in notebooks. It's tiny. It's about 3 pounds-bringing back fond memories of my long-gone NEC UltraLite-and not quite ??Ñ of an inch thick at its thickest. But, and this is a big one, it has a full-size keyboard and a 13.3-inch display.

Now, much as I like the Linux-powered UMPC (ultramobile PCs) such as the ASUS Eee PC 4G and the forthcoming Everex CloudBook, their screens and keyboards are on the small side. Of course, they're also much cheaper.

The Air, which comes with 2GB of RAM, an 80GB standard hard drive and 802.11n Wi-Fi, will cost $1,799. If you go for what Job called the--gulp--"pricey" 64GB SSD (solid-state drive), it will cost more. How much more? Try $999, according to the Apple Store--yes, you can pre-order one now.

Check out images of the ultraslim MacBook Air here. 

On the other hand, can you imagine what the battery life must be like on this system? It has no moving parts whatsoever. No, it doesn't even have a CD or DVD drive. For that you can either get an exterior one or use Remote Disk to borrow a nearby PC's optical drive.

To me, Remote Disk will be enough. Lately, I find that I use optical drives about as much as I ever did floppy drives on my notebooks, which is another way of saying, I don't use them at all. If I need to manually move data from place to place I use a USB drive.

Taken all-in-all, I look at the MacBook Air and I see the future of business notebook computing. Come to think of it, my corporate laptop is about five years old now. If someone in Ziff Davis Enterprise IT thinks I could use a new one, I have a suggestion for them.

Add all this together and what do you get? I get a vision of offices integrating Macs into both the office desktop and in the server room. I see executives with MacBook Air laptops inside their briefcases. Indeed, I see enterprises moving to superior Apple and Linux products in place of the moribund Windows ecosystem.

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