Apple Owes the Enterprise a Better Client

Opinion: To expand its presence, Apple needs more than competent server products; it needs a client that is a good enterprise citizen-with five key improvements.

As Apple heads into Macworld Expo, a lot of the buzz focuses on Apple, the pop consumer company. Much is made of the fact that a quarter of Apples revenue recently came from the iPod and the online music store.

Of course, this leaves the remaining three-quarters of Apples revenue coming from Macintosh-related business, which the company shows no signs of giving up without a fight.

Apple also isnt content with the home market. This week it attempted to expand its foothold in the enterprise arena with a pair of pre-Expo announcements, the new Xsan 64-bit cluster file system, and the beefed-up Xserve G5. Both are feature-filled, competitively priced server products.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read the latest on Xsan and Xserve.

But so far, all is quiet on the client front. Apple has not said much about Windows compatibility in its Tiger client since it introduced the next-generation operating system last May.

When you talk to enterprise managers, it isnt Apple servers they need. For administrators of enterprise networks, Mac clients still need special care that isnt required with Windows clients.

Apple will need a client that is a good enterprise citizen if it is going to expand its market share. The extra effort required to support Macs is a disincentive for managers to bring in Macs—and a reason to get rid of them.

Heres what Apple needs in 2005 to beef up its enterprise client.

1. An Exchange Server MAPI client for Mac
Mac OS 9 had a decent Exchange client in Outlook 2001. It wasnt perfect but was close to being on par with the Windows version.

Unfortunately, Microsoft never created an Outlook for Mac OS X. In February 2003, the Mac Business Unit dropped Outlook for Mac in favor of integrating groupware functionality into the already existing Entourage X.

Microsoft Entourage X 10.1.4 was a big disappointment to IS managers. It doesnt support Exchange Servers native MAPI protocol used by Exchange for calendar and address book functions. Entourage requires the use of IMAP for e-mail and WebDAV and LDAP for scheduling and contacts.

With Entourage 2004, it is possible to access the Exchange Server global address list without WebDAV enabled on Exchange Server. A third-party product, Snerdwares AddressX ($25) allows access to the Exchange Global Address List from the OS X Address Book.

But by not supporting MAPI, Entourage still requires special treatment from IS managers, and has plenty of compatibility problems.

This is one issue that at face value is beyond Apples control. But so was the creation of Office for Mac OS X at one point. Apple seemed to have worked that one out.

2. A more robust SMB file-sharing client
An SMB file-sharing client has been part of Mac OS X for a long time, but still has problems. The problems arent always universal, but are widely reported on discussion forums. For instance, there was a problem in which aliases to SMB shares break, another in which users couldnt delete or move folders on SMB servers, and another widely reported problem of SMB client failing to work altogether.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read more about lack of Windows integration in OS X.

These are often temporary problems caused by a particular Mac OS X upgrade, often fixed in a later upgrade. But as often as Panther updates fix problems, new ones appear. Users and IS managers often come up with their own hacks and workarounds, but the overall experience is often one of a fragile SMB client.

Next Page: Limited support for SMB home directories.