Should Apple Even Care About the Enterprise?

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2009-07-04

Should Apple Even Care About the Enterprise?

The debate over whether or not the business world should deploy Windows 7 rages on.  Some say it's an iterative update over Windows Vista and, thus, not worth deploying.  Others believe it's the operating system that Microsoft should have created in the first place. They believe it's perfect for the enterprise.

The same debate can be contested about Apple's upcoming release of Snow Leopard, the follow-up to Mac OS X Leopard.  Snow Leopard sports some nifty features. Users looking to have Exchange support in Mac OS X will finally have it. Thanks to 64-bit architecture, Snow Leopard's native apps, including Finder and Mail, will run much faster than users are accustomed to on Leopard. Apple even updated the software's Spotlight Search to make it easier to find files. It's certainly a compelling upgrade. And for $29 for a single install to $49 for a family five-pack, it's tough to argue with the price.

But then again, Snow Leopard has some serious flaws that might not make it ideal for the enterprise.

First off, there's little support for business applications. For the most part, software developers create software for Windows. Historically, it has been the best operating system for business users and, because of its domination of the business market, it only made sense for developers to focus their time developing for Windows rather than any other operating system.  At the same time, Apple hasn't played nice with developers, deciding instead to keep its operating system closed down to control the Mac OS X ecosystem.  It helps keep the operating system secure, but it damages the company's ability to attract developers.

That issue of security is another problem that Snow Leopard faces. Without a doubt, Apple's latest operating system will be its most tested yet.  Since the release of Mac OS X Tiger, more security outbreaks have targeted Mac OS X users.  Part of that is due to their contention that they're perfectly safe using Mac OS X, and part of that is Apple's propaganda machine that helps perpetuate that myth.  The reality is Mac OS X hasn't been tested enough.  Snow Leopard will be attacked by malicious hackers.  Enterprise customers just don't know what could happen.  Worst of all, there are so few anti-virus and anti-spyware programs available for Mac OS X, there's not much a company can do to keep itself safe.

These are obviously glaring issues that Apple needs to face if it wants to target the enterprise.  But perhaps the better question is not how it can solve those problems, but whether or not Apple should really even care about the enterprise. Granted, it has added some features that make its operating system more business-friendly, but in the end, Apple has followed the right strategy: appeal to consumers and drop in a few enterprise features to boot. It makes sense. Apple isn't a software company that relies on the sale of its applications to make money-it's a hardware company. The software is just a means to an end.

Apple: The Hardware Company?

Apple: The Hardware Company?

Apple is a hardware company. It always was and it always will be. Although it's true that it develops compelling software, like Mac OS X, it only does that to create a unique value proposition for its hardware. Consider this: If Apple were a true software company, it wouldn't be wasting time developing an operating system for only its computers. It would be selling its software to every major vendor in the business to target Microsoft and increase its market share. 

But that's not Apple's strategy. Quite the contrary, Apple has no plans to sell its software because it considers that a key differentiating factor that will attract users to its hardware.  If it sells Mac OS X to Dell, HP and the rest, Apple loses the single advantage it has clung to for so long: a unique experience.

Apple can charge a premium for its products because it delivers a premium service.  From the packaging to the beautiful computers to the operating system, Apple is doing its best to deliver an experience that its competitors can't match.  And as long as it maintains its level of expertise through providing that experience, it believes it will perform just fine.

But that's an experience that's designed specifically for the consumer. Anyone who has used Mac OS X will admit that it's a consumer product.  Although it finally has some business features, it worries more about style than applicability to business.  It boasts special animations, design conventions and other little tidbits that make it ideal for the person who wants to enjoy a handsome operating system, but rather annoying for those who want to get some work done.

But who cares?  Mac OS X isn't about the enterprise; it's about selling hardware.  After all, with the iPod, iPhone, Apple TV, iMac, MacBook, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air and Mac Pro leading Apple's product line, who cares about the software?

So, maybe it's time we all realize that as nice as Apple products are, the company isn't too concerned about the enterprise, nor should it be.  Let Microsoft hold that ground.  It's a complex market sector and, to be quite honest, Apple doesn't need to dominate it to be successful.

Rocket Fuel