Apple Woos Enterprises

At Macworld, company spotlights Mac OS upgrade, new tools, applications.

Apple Computer Inc. is making a strong play for the enterprise and positioning its technology as a viable alternative to Microsoft Corp.s.

At Macworld Conference & Expo here last week, Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled an enhanced Mac OS 10 operating system, as well as a host of tools and applications to help enterprise customers better organize their businesses.

Leading the introductions was Version 10.2 of Mac OS X—also known as Jaguar—which includes 150 new features, many targeted at enterprise customers. Such enterprise features include the Kerberos authentication protocol and virtual private network support that links to a Windows-based network.

Other features in Version 10.2 include a multithreaded Finder and support for QuickTime 6, as well as integrated handwriting recognition that enables users to write in any application without additional training.

Also included is an enhanced mail client that color-codes message threads, including coding junk mail brown.

Shipping with the operating system next month will be Version 10.2 of Apples Unix-based Mac OS X Server software. Company officials said that while businesses with a strong Windows commitment are unlikely to switch platforms, they hope to make a push into mixed environments.

Jaguar Server will include Open Director, a directory services offering based on LDAP that enables access to any LDAP directory server. Workgroup Manager, another feature, will give managers greater control over the system, including setting privileges, preferences and access to printers.

One new application is iCal, a single-window "catering" module that provides schedules and calendars and enables users to share calendars over the Internet with automatic updating and subscriptions. Another application, iSync, enables users to synchronize information using the new generation of Bluetooth-enabled cell phones, Palm OS devices and iPods for Mac OS X Version 10.2.

Chuck Friesen, director of instructional technology for Lincoln Public Schools, in Lincoln, Neb., said the iSync and operating system enhancements will be key to his purchasing plans. "Synchronization is critical," Friesen said. "Palms and their role in education are ever-increasing. To be able to sync to the Mac like that is essential."

Jeff Held, chief technology officer with Watson Wyatt Worldwide Inc., a consulting company in Fairfax, Va., also said the iSync application and Mac OS X enhancements are important. "The problem in Windows environments like ours is integrating Macs onto the network and with other devices," Held said. "These new announcements make that a lot more attractive."

Apple also announced a protocol called Rendezvous, which will appear in products in about six months and will enable Macintosh operating systems to discover other devices, such as printers, over any IP network with no configuration needed.

Changes to the iPod, such as a new $499, 20GB version that will support both a contact list and an interactive calendar, are designed to grow the music player into a personal digital assistant. Another version of the iPod will support Windows, although it will not have all the features of the Mac-supported iPod. Still, "its better than anything else out there that supports Windows," Jobs said.

The new iPods will be available next month.

Apple is also changing the name of its iTools Web services to .Mac and will charge a fee for the services, which once were free. The services will cost $99 a year; current iTool subscribers will get the first year of service for $49.

The product news and enterprise strategy announcement came amid several distractions, including an earnings statement in which the company met lowered market expectations and criticism from Microsoft officials that Apple, of Cupertino, Calif., isnt doing enough to push Mac OS X. Apple officials rejected the criticism, pointing out that about 2.5 million customers make Mac OS X their primary operating system and that they expect that number to double by the end of the year.

Additional reporting by Matthew Rothenberg, Nick dePlume, Carmen Nobel and Daniel Drew Turner