Readers Mull Apples Enterprise Moves

 
 
By Matthew Rothenberg  |  Posted 2002-05-10
 
 
 

Readers Mull Apples Enterprise Moves


Apple Computers announcements at this weeks Worldwide Developers Conference seem to have brought a lot of grownups out of hiding—and many of them emerged ready to respond to my latest column.

Dont get me wrong: Previous installments focusing on Apple and the Mac have prompted plenty of intelligent responses (both pro and con), and Ive been pleased to feature many of them.

However, the prospect that the next major rev of Mac OS X (a k a Jaguar) and a rack-mounted Mac server hardware will finally push Apples Unix-based New Wave OS into the enterprise seems to have caught the attention of an unprecedented number of professional users more interested in performance and compatibility than in platform polemics.

Even the skeptics—who raise eminently reasonable questions about Apples legacy support and developer relations, the rate of PowerPC development, and the inroads any Mac platform can make in the culture of enterprise IT—were remarkably positive about the Macs potential as a serious corporate contender.

I should also note that this is the first time Ive published an opinion piece (at least since Steve Jobs took the reins and reignited Mac passions) when I didnt find myself having to answer a single e-mail questioning my Mac bona fides or "platform loyalty." To me, that fact alone represents a great leap forward for Mac discourse!

Without further ado, heres a sampling of reader opinion on Apples enterprise prospects:

Im glad someone else has kept an eye on the potential of OS X to give Apple a beachhead in the corporate computing world.

So much of the press has been distracted for years by Apples claims to be interested only in the consumer market. However, Steve Jobs realized long ago that Apple would first need a credible OS before even talking about pursuing IT.

I still think they are trying to be stealthy for now. When Apple inevitably starts marketing itself to business, it will attract a great deal of scrutiny, which it must be ready to handle.

P.S.: OS X has caused great excitement in the science community at JPL, where we have a very heterogeneous environment.

Derek Slye
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Mission Software Systems Section (369)


I have been waiting for rack-mountable servers from Apple for the longest time.

I run a network of nine Windows 2000 servers, with about 65 Mac clients. When this network was set up, Mac OS X was not available, and AppleShare servers didnt cut it. So that is why it at the time it was decided that Windows servers would flip the bill.

Now with Mac OS X coming into its own, and Apple deciding finally to make rack-mountable servers, I will be in a position finally to get some Mac servers on the network. It might not happen right away, but at least now its an option.

Aaron Willems
Lieberman Productions


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Apple has had a rough history in the corporate world. Their network servers were well-designed but never effectively marketed.

Being Unix-based, they were too difficult for the majority of Mac users, and the corporate network users that would have found them useful never really were exposed to them.

Apple has moved slowly in the enterprise market, to ensure that they do not attempt to move into the market too early. As was demonstrated by the early Newtons [Apples discontinued handheld computers], a poor initial product can severely damage credibility.

Apple has effectively improved Mac OS X performance and waited until the pieces were in place before entering the enterprise market. The feature set and performance of Jaguar provides the final software pieces. The rack mounted server announcement allows Apple to leverage the Unix-powered GUI of Mac OS X.

Apple focused on the consumer market first for several good reasons; visibility, more accessible, better growth potential. As it turned out, if Apple had moved into the enterprise market earlier, then Apple, too, might have been hurt by the downturn.

I feel Apple is moving carefully to improve their odds of success. Any misstep could be devastating. I think they are playing it very smart.

George Wagner
Computers, support and consulting


I know what you mean that those who thought Apple did care about the enterprise were vindicated. Amen to that; I knew that sooner or later it would become evident.

But those who screamed for an "enterprise plan" were smoking crack anyway. They never pointed out what Gates "enterprise plan" was before Windows broke into the enterprise—Because there wasnt one!

Success in the home became success in the enterprise automatically. Jobs knew that, so his focus on the consumer was the only "enterprise" strategy that would ever work. Make stuff people cant live without, and then exploit every opportunity that opens up because of it—right into the enterprise.

Mark Duling
Network administrator
Biola University


Im not so sure about your assertion that Apple had taken what you described as "giant steps" toward making software and hardware for the enterprise. 

One possible obstacle to acceptance is the lack of enterprise applications, from mainstream companies like Oracle, BEA, PeopleSoft, SAP and Seibel.  I suspect the new rack-mounted server Apples planning would be geared towards three segments of present and potential customers:  

  1. The K-12 and secondary-education crowd.
  2. Businesses still using those old NeXT Stations.
  3. The graphics-professional crowd who want that "extra" power that you cant get with just a Power Mac G4.

Its too bad, though; I think Mac OS X is capable of much more. Maybe if Apple was to buy a Wintel cloner who specializes in designing workstations and large servers (Im talking about the big, massive SGI or Sun servers), then maybe Apple can make some headway and convince those companies to develop their "money" apps. 

A note to Mr. Jobs: Servers and workstations will get you more profit!

Gerald Shields


I have spent the past three months trying to figure out how to migrate my office from Windows to Mac OS X. We were Mac users primarily until the dark days of 97, when we lost support from some of the vertically integrated software houses.

I, however, have a G3-series PowerBook that I still used and decided to try OS X. I immediately fell in love with the stability. I have yet to crash and freeze this Unix platform. (I have, however, crashed software and was always able to force-quit applications.)

I find OS X to be so compelling that I will begin re-integrating Macs into the network on my very next hardware purchase. I expect that by the end of 2004, I will reverse the [OS ratio] in my office from 10 Windows machines and one Mac to 10 Macs and one Windows machine.

Greg Maynes


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For Mac users with IT/IS experience, Apples efforts in this area are greatly appreciated! My patience has finally been rewarded.

Id expect that Apple will not make great inroads into the corporate enterprise market until after the education market takes up these unique offerings and begins to run with them. (And when I say "education," I dont expect just K-12; Im thinking that well see these offerings being employed at some higher-ed. locations very shortly, maybe even in some pretty high-profile institutions.)

Once they catch on there, youll see a very simple yet obvious infiltration into the corporate market. As IT/IS students transfer into the workforce, theyll bring their Mac OS X experience to the workplace.

Smaller and intermediate-sized companies will also be early adopters. I suspect that with Apple being Apple, well see many big improvements to setting up and maintaining a network. Small and intermediate-sized businesses will be the first to see the wisdom of that bottom line and wont have near the same bigotry toward Apple as IT/IS departments in big corporations do now.

With the networking additions that Jaguar will bring to the party, well see a wonderful parity for Mac users in the Windows world. Suddenly, there will be no real excuses, no more reasons to exclude Macs in the workplace—even if corporate employees just start bringing in their PowerBooks and iBooks and hooking them on up to the network.

Im just waiting for the first real big Fortune 500 company that steps up to the plate and knocks one out of the park for Apple by announcing its intention to replace all its corporate PCs and servers with Macs. Oh, that will be the day! And Ill be the first in line to apply to that companys IT/IS team.

Bob McCormick
MyMac.com


I think these recent moves have impressed not just the core Apple constituency, but Windows, Linux and Unix advocates as well.

These are welcome moves to make Mac servers more enterprise-friendly and intercompatible—a full-bodied upgrade with cross-platform-y goodness (as the people at "As The Apple Turns" might say).

One thing Im wishing for is a set of robust APIs for IP telephony. There is already support for SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) in Windows, and standards like H.323 have been on the platform for a long time.

Unified messaging is a key component for enterprise penetration: Companies are moving to all-VoIP networks when they get the opportunity, but as far as I know, there are no APIs for OS X.

AJ Kandy


Mac OS X 10.2 looks to be one exciting release. I hope there are a few other, as-yet-hidden, secrets under the bonnet, like 64-bit OS (with the requisite hardware to match) and a version that runs on Intel hardware. (Think of the developer support Mac OS X would receive then; goodnight, Windows monopoly!).

In any event, Apple has finally seen the light when it seeks to make OS X the most compatible, cross-platform friendly around. With the explosion of support from Unix and other developers (e.g., the newfound support for porting games to Mac those chaps who wrote the DirectX support and the huge boost from scientific Unix developers) combined with amazingly strong consumer/creative interest (thanks to iTunes, iPhoto, iDVD, iPod, DVD Studio Pro et al.), Mac OS X has a very bright future indeed.

James MM Rolevink
MacAttack


Steve Jobs has been doing right 95% of the time since he got back to Apple. The progress Apple has been making these pass couple years have been great, and the Mac OS X G4 iMac I just got is excellent!

For the first time in a long while, I feel that Apple will have a bright future and will be able to break away from past ups and downs as a more steady cooperation financially.

However, there is one little nagging thing in the back of my mind: this little company called Motorola and its inability to catch up with the CPU megaherz race!

Chuck Wong
Digital surfacer
Mitsubishi Motors Research & Design Center
Cypress, Calif.


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This is a bit long, but you have opened up my can o worms.

I agree with much of what you say, but I am concerned on deeper level than you are considering. More than going outside the box, Apple has to go outside its own building.

First of all, this OS must have drivers written before it will have mass acceptance.

It is beyond my comprehension that a company that focuses on the publishing world has no scanner drivers that support legacy professional gear and very few printer drivers. This not only true for the usual vendor suspects, but the thermal printers needed in point-of-sale and inventory applications, too.

For a company focused on education and the physically challenged, there are no touch-screen drivers for OS X.

I have spoken to all the major vendors of these types of products, and Apple has not only never been in contact with them, they are skeptical that there is a market for their product. Its a chicken- and-egg proposition. Where is the evangelism?

People can not change from Mac OS 9 and abandon their investments in these important—and in some instances life-supporting— peripherals, no matter what features are in the core OS.

I fear my point will be proven with the rollout of [Adobe] Photoshop 7. This is an awesome product and will run in both versions of the OS. I will wager that most people will still use it in OS 9 because of their serious investment in plug-ins that only run in 9. And since it [complies with Apples Carbon APIs], it runs very well in 9, too.

The same for QuarkXPress, Illustrator and Director and other extensible applications where the investment to make their computing tools customized and efficient cant be compromised with a move to OS X until it can be replicated completely. And the cost has to be justified in increased productivity more than pretty screens. Admit it: OS X is consistently slower than OS 9 on many routines.

The confidence in Apple is also diminished by the failure to deliver as promised. People invested in hardware and were assured that those products would support OS X. These products with ATI video cards run, if at all, like molasses uphill in winter. Not a great incentive to permanently switch. Now with 32MB video cards as a requirement, almost no one can use the new functionality of 10.2 without new hardware. And dont get me started on the mess the ADC connector creates in real life.

If Apple does kill OS 9 at this time, it will be very premature, IMHO. X is not done yet. Even Microsoft, IBM and Sun continue to sell and support older versions until their customer base can evaluate and test new configurations on the new systems.

If people are forced to pay more for the same functionality, from a company that failed to deliver on promises, they will have a stronger inclination to look elsewhere. That elsewhere is no longer limited to Microsoft. There are Darwin and Linux distributions, plus OpenOffice that will extend life of older Macs for a lot of people. And many can accept these for a fine small workgroup server or print spooler, too.

And sad to say, if you have a problem in the open-source world you will get quicker answers from that community than from Apple, too. Support from Apple is an oxymoron. Go to the Genius Bar at the Apple store and ask them for advice outside their playbook and they dont have anyplace to send you. Go to their phone support, a paid third party, and they can only read what they have in front of them. And then its only going to help you on the OS itself (maybe) and nothing to do with any third-party product, even the ones Apple sells you directly.

For developers, Apple has got to give parity to Carbon applications and open all the toolboxes. The font handling in Carbon is awful because it cant reach the Quartz engine. The average person doesnt know this and cant see any difference in most Carbon ports, so once again an advantage for switching to X is lost. Worse, an incentive to port to X is lost.

The ports are not that easy, either. The tools Apple provides are late and poorly documented. Photoshop was the first app shown in X at Macworld, and 18 months later it ships as a Carbon port. It wont be for many years, if ever, that we see a Cocoa application from Adobe. Its too much code to hand fix and Adobe, as big as it is, cant afford to do it. Microsoft cant even do it. What does this say for the hundreds of smaller developers out there.

Lastly, I wont go into the failings of Apples distribution channel or the disregard for Apples resellers and consultants in the ASE or now the ACN (new name, same stuff so far). We will just tackle this ... Look at Mac OS Xs Aqua interface. It dazzles until you use it. It breaks every rule in Apples own user-interface guidelines. It breaks Fitts Law. Most of these rules were written by Apple a long time ago, not to support an ego or "cool factor" but to make users get work done easier.

That is all gone. For 20 years, the ease-of-use mantra was what defined Apple. Can you honestly say that OS X is easier to use? I cant.

But if I want to put a skin and behavior back on X the way I like it, I cant because Apple wont let me. Well, if Adobe can write InDesign so I can import Quark files and manipulate the files with the same shortcuts as Quark, then Apple can let me rework the OS X interface to have the same interface and usability as 9 and the same keyboard shortcuts. But they refuse and stop others who try. They want me to give up 20 years of learned behavior, and that is tough to do. Why should I have to?

The interface is harder to learn. And installing and managing files is magnitudes more difficult. Where are the file-management tools? Where are the disk-management tools? Where are any tools that can help you fix common problems? Symantecs tools dont yet work. Retrospect cant work the OS 9 way, either.

And why must I keep my files where Apple tells me? If I move them, then updaters cant update. Heck, they cant even see them on the disk. There is no Unix reason for this. In OS 9, I can put things where I want.

And the need for .3 file extensions instead of creator types is a major step backwards.

Its fair to say that Unix is complex. I will accept additional complexity with the corresponding training. But ...

There is no credible, affordable training of any kind offered by Apple for this change.

They have gone from the "I dont need training, this is a Mac" attitude to a "Wow, IBM gets $1,500 a class so we can, too" attitude. Yet they dont have the same curriculum developers, they dont have the same guarantees of learning. They dont have any credible certification to warrant those prices. In fact, their courses are an insult to experienced users and only confuse the novice (who will not spend $1,500 to learn how to operate a $799 computer)

If someone will spend this kind of money, they have great expectations, and they will have to explain to somebody why they should spend it on just a Mac.

I could go on, but I think I have made my point(s). Hope you have input for a few weeks articles.

Thanks for listening and supporting the Mac.

Mitch Krayton
Sales, engineering, consulting, support
Apple Product Professional
Digital Resources
Valencia, Calif.

P.S.: In case you dont know, I am an Apple VAR and have used Apple products to run my business for 20 years. I have held every designation that Apple has offered (and they told no one about). I love Apple products, not command-line products. I want them to work like Apple products that I can use and support as I have done in the past. Is this really too much to ask?


Mac veteran Matthew Rothenberg is online editor for Ziff Davis Medias Baseline and CIO Insight magazines.

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