Does Apple Belong in the Enterprise?

 
 
By Cameron Sturdevant  |  Posted 2009-12-28
 
 
 

Does Apple Belong in the Enterprise?


2010 will start my second year as a daily Mac user in a Windows-oriented world. I think my aluminum-skinned charges will thrive in the coming year despite clinging to a fat-client model I associate more with the past than the future.

Apple's style, design and functionality are big inducements for me to continue my Mac experience.

The MacBook Pro laptop, 13-inch version, is among the best notebooks I've ever used because of its clear, bright screen and responsive touchpad and the performance improvements enabled by the "Snow Leopard" OS X operating system. Start-up and shut-down times can be measured in seconds, and battery life is still measured in hours of continuous use.

My Mac Mini desktop system is reliable and small, and easily able to handle my daily editorial workload. The Mac Pro tower that sits beside me for FileMaker and Photoshop duty is a steady partner in my budding video and photographic endeavors here at eWEEK. Indeed, of all the Mac systems I use, the Mac Pro would be the hardest to replace with a Windows machine because it is the processing hub for multimedia content generated in the San Francisco eWEEK Labs operation.

But the overriding characteristic that weds me to the Mac platform is the rock-solid uptime that I've experienced with all of my Apple systems. The Macs resist "bit rot" and viral infection. They self-update smoothly and without causing me to lose precious minutes or hours of productivity. And there is something to be said for a computer system that just works, although it took me some time to acclimate to the Apple way.

When I started my journey of using "Apple in the enterprise," I had some modest goals for the project: Figure out how to use a Mac desktop system and see if it could be effectively integrated into organizations dominated by Windows. As readers of my early reports on this project know, I was a true Mac newcomer. In the year since, I've become a fan (although not a fanboy) of the Mac systems I've used.

In 2009, I wrapped up reviews of Snow Leopard running on both Mac client and server. As a result of these tests and my daily office experience, I'm changing the theme of my continued Mac exploration from "Apple in the enterprise" to "Apple at work."

The Key to Painless Switching


 

My experience with Apple systems has shown that Mac desktop and notebook systems are still a departmental-rather than an enterprise-concern for IT managers. Macs are deployed primarily to high-value employees who are using advanced content production applications. They are also deployed to senior executives who want a little "wow" prestige when they walk into a meeting. I haven't talked with any IT managers who are making the decision to deploy Mac systems for the general work force.

My 2009 Mac experience also was propelled by the idea that Windows users might consider switching to OS X with the release of Windows 7. I've used a number of tools to make my Mac work more effectively in a Windows-oriented workplace with products created to encourage the "switching" frenzy, including virtualization tools that support Windows virtual machines running on a Mac system.

Using Parallels Desktop Switch to Mac Edition, for example, moving all of my applications and data to a VM on my MacBook Pro was a nearly seamless experience. The several hours of "click to learn" instruction that comes in the Parallels product makes it well worth the price of admission ($99) for new Mac users. In fact, if Parallels Desktop Switch to Mac Edition had been available when I started this journey, my transition would have been far less painful.

The fact that I can run a Windows VM to access my e-mail and calendar with Outlook was critical to my ability to use a Mac at work. (It also helped that I switched from using Microsoft Office to Google Docs as my main word processing environment.)

Given the current crush of cloud computing attention-and the constant drumbeat to decouple hardware from the OS and applications-it will be interesting to watch Apple's further progress. If I've learned anything thus far, it's that the Apple way means a "till-death-do-us-part" marriage of its hardware and OS.

My vow: to continue to test whether and when this marriage makes sense in the workplace.

Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at csturdevant@eweek.com.

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