PARIS—Like most computer trade shows, Apple Expo is not as vast an affair today as it was five or 10 years ago, when the event could easily fill two floors of the vast CNIT convention center in the La Défense business district north of Paris. Nevertheless, the 2004 edition shows a stable market and an audience that is less quizzical about the future of its favorite platform than it was two or three years ago.
Of course, Apple Expo has never been a predominantly IT-centric event: As far as trade shows go, its always had a consumer penchant. Unlike most computer shows in the United States, Apple Expo stays open on Saturdays and generally caters to enthusiasts and hobbyists at least as much as it targets professionals.
Nevertheless, things have changed with the arrival and maturation of Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server. Panther has been a decisive step for the Macintosh-based IT community here in France—which in many cases means publishing houses and media companies.
While there are isolated cases of larger publishing companies, such as Emap France, switching from Macintosh-based workflows to Windows XP (in general also linked to a switch from QuarkXPress to Adobes InDesign CS page layout software), the majority of todays market is much more reassured about the Macintosh operating system than it used to be with Mac OS 9 and earlier releases of Mac OS X.
Mac OS X Server , Apples Xserve and Xserve RAID hardware solutions are an important part of this process: Little by little, Apples server business is gaining credibility outside of the companys core business. Increasingly, large corporations deploy Xserve-based solutions for Macintosh as well as for Windows clients. Apple cites Generali as well as Xerox Global Services as two of its most recent success stories in this field.
And while Apple has a solid reputation for pricey hardware, the server solutions are perceived to be very competitive, especially when taking into account the steep cost of client licenses for Microsofts server software.
“Apples hardware and software now compares favorably with other solutions on the market,” said Xavier Vanneau, a consultant with ServiWare, a VAR specializing in scientific processing solutions that offers Unix, Linux and Windows solutions. “This is a clear change from two or three years ago.”
For IT professionals, Mac OS X is beginning to offer some advantages in terms of administering and managing larger sites. At Apple Expo, Apple Professional Services showed DeployStudio, a solution for rapidly deploying disc images to workgroup clusters in larger corporations.
The solution, developed here in France and now being used by major corporations such as Hachette Fillipacchi, draws upon Unix-based administration features and benefits from the fact that Apples operating system supports universal, bootable disc images.
“One of the sites we are working with tried to deploy a disc image to several dozens of seemingly identical Dell workstations” said Alexandre Martins Melo, consulting engineer at Apple Professional Services in Paris. “Due to subtle hardware differences between the models, it turned out that they required no less than eight different disc images to get the job done.” Melo said the problem would not have occurred with Mac OS X.
While DeployStudio is not intended to be a shrink-wrapped product, with users gaining access to the solution through Apples consulting services, it is clear that increasing maturity of the Mac OS X platform will make Macs a more interesting alternative in enterprise computing.
Other professional products demonstrated at Apple Expo were targeted more heavily toward Apples core audience, i.e. professional graphics, design and video. Most notable is the trend toward increased credibility of the Macintosh in professional 3-D modeling and rendering, a market which until the arrival of the Power Mac G5 was completely dominated by faster PC hardware.
Alias demonstrated its recently announced high-end, “unlimited” version of its professional 3-D production system, and Luxology showcased the new Modo 3-D modeler, which will be available for both Mac OS X and Windows.