Why Does Mac OS X Keep Snubbing the Enterprise?

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2009-06-19

Why Does Mac OS X Keep Snubbing the Enterprise?

"Windows is for the enterprise, Mac OS X is for the consumer."

It's an argument made by some in the tech business to help define the industry. But that's a tough argument to make. Both Apple and Microsoft are doing all they can to appeal to both sectors. And although Microsoft holds a considerable lead when it comes to market share in the enterprise, it's also the leader in the consumer space. Apple has a fraction of Microsoft's market share in the enterprise and the consumer market isn't much better.

But is that statement true? Is Mac OS X really not ready for the enterprise?

Market share aside, the only way to determine how appropriate Mac OS X really is for enterprise users is to judge it by its features. And if we take an honest look at Snow Leopard, Apple's soon-to-be-released operating system, it becomes abundantly clear that it doesn't quite offer what's expected in the enterprise.

Snow Leopard is, admittedly, an iterative update. The design is the same as Apple's current OS, Leopard. Most of the same graphics are still present. And for the most part, the user will have the same basic experience as before.

But that doesn't mean Apple didn't change anything. Snow Leopard will (finally) boast Exchange support.  Although Windows has had it for years, Apple has been loath to support Exchange. It reasoned that it wasn't necessary to include it in its operating system. But after finally seeing the light, Apple has brought Exchange support to its Macs. The company said that Exchange support will be included in Mail, iCal and Address Book. Users will also be able to search through Exchange using the software's Spotlight search.

Another (possibly) important feature Apple added to Mac OS X Snow Leopard is 64-bit support. When Snow Leopard is made available, all the native apps, including Finder, Spotlight and Mail, will load quicker. More importantly, third-party apps will be able to utilize Mac 64-bit architecture to enhance the functionality of their operation. Conceivably, that will leave the door open for more developers to fully maximize the appeal of their apps.

Of course, that has been the promise of 64-bit architecture since its inception. It has been available on Windows for years. And yet, even with that promise of better functionality, few developers have found a good enough reason to exploit the technology. For the most part, 64-bit architecture, while promising, has fallen out of favor. It hasn't been exploited in any way. In essence, it's a technology that Apple will be promoting and using for its own gain, but in practice, few developers will ever follow suit.

Other than that, Snow Leopard hasn't really provided Mac users with the kind of features that would make the enterprise jump at the chance to ditch Windows and opt instead for Mac OS X. And the worst part is, Apple could have appealed to the enterprise community quickly with one simple move: playing nice with developers.


Apple Cool to Software Developers

Apple has a proven track record of making it too difficult for developers to get their software on the platform. For that reason, most business applications were designed specifically for Windows. In the meantime, more developers have come to the realization that Windows is simply the "business" platform and have largely ignored Mac OS X. It makes sense. 

Developing software can be expensive. And unless a company knows that a platform supports the number of customers it needs to justify investing in the new application, it doesn't make sense to build it for that platform. So far, Apple's policies and inconsequential market share make it difficult for developers to invest in the operating system.

Apple knows that and yet it's still snubbing the enterprise by maintaining an operating system that has, so far, been a locked-down bastion of Apple goodness. And what purpose does that serve? Sure, it might make it more secure. And it might make it easier for Apple to manage its operating system. But to the business world-a sector that relies on the openness of architecture-that's simply unacceptable.

Why is Apple snubbing the enterprise? Undoubtedly some will say that the iPhone is making inroads in the enterprise and I heartily agree. But in order for the iPhone to have the kind of appeal Apple wants, its desktop software should follow suit. So far, it hasn't.

Perhaps Apple's decision to ignore the enterprise is largely due to its realization that attracting it is far too costly. Or maybe Apple is content to be the company that appeals to the consumer. In either case, its motives are clear-provide some enterprise features to make some take the bait, but maintain a consumer-friendly operating system so it doesn't ostracize its core customers.

It's a tough balance. Apple undoubtedly wants to find its way into the lucrative enterprise space, but doing so could force it to develop multiple SKUs of its OS-a ploy Microsoft uses and Apple has criticized. Or worse, Apple might be required to add features that would make the operating system more bloated and thus, more Windows-like-another possibility Steve Jobs and Company can't fathom.

And so, as Snow Leopard prepares for its debut in September, the enterprise is left wondering why it can't enjoy Macs. Sure, it's more enterprise-friendly than previous generations, but Mac OS X just isn't where it needs to be to make significant inroads into the market. And until Apple finally decides it wants to target the enterprise by improving its software and repairing relations with developers, the result is clear: Windows will continue to reign supreme in the business world.


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