Could Panther Attract Enterprise Converts?

Power users say Mac OS X 10.3 is enterprise-ready, but hurdles to broader adoption remain.

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SANTA CLARA, Calif.—Judging from the opinions of users gathered at this week OReilly Mac OS X Conference here, the recent release of Mac OS X Panther could help Apple Computer Inc. gain more Mac converts in the enterprise.

Apple officials themselves have heralded the server version of Mac OS X 10.3 as the biggest server release yet and have pointed out that a significant number of the 150 new features in Panther are aimed at enterprises. Users tend to agree that with Panther, Apple has taken important steps toward addressing the enterprise.

/zimages/2/28571.gifFor more details on Apples push towards enterprise computing with Panther, take a look at Apple Aims at Enterprise Compatibility.

"Jaguar was the first time the Mac was seriously considered for enterprise deployment," said Philip Rinehart, a computer lab manager at Yale University. "Panther is the follow up to everything (enterprises) wanted with Jaguar."

To Rinehart, Panther will help Apple continue to make inroads with Unix users since Mac OS X is based on an implementation of FreeBSD. But where Apple will continue to struggle is in convincing Microsoft Corp. Windows users to rethink their operating system of choice, he said.

Getting enterprises to switch will be particularly difficult because managers who decide which PCs to deploy are most interested in the immediate cost of buying equipment and not the bigger picture, Rinehart said.

"From an enterprise standpoint, people that make the bottom line decisions still see Apple hardware as too pricey," Rinehart said.

Another problem that continues to plague Apple is the lack of application support in some cases for Mac OS X, said Kris Steinhoff, a system administrator at the University of Chicago. For example, university music programs often use audio production software that lacks full support for Mac OS X, he said.

"Specialized software tools are keeping people from upgrading to OS X," Steinhoff said.

Judging from the sessions at this years OReilly conference, Apple still has a long way to go before becoming a major force in the enterprise. Sessions continued to focus on Apples mainstay enterprise users at publishing houses, educational institutions and in animation.

/zimages/2/28571.gifAt this weeks OReilly conference, faculty and staff reported on a cluster of 1,100 Power Mac G5 machines that created the fifth largest supercomuter in the world. And for a budget price. Click here for more information on the project.

Yet some Mac users are seeing signs of a shift. Consultant Damien Barrett said he has noticed a renewed interest among his enterprise clients in Macs thanks to the advances being made with OS X. In one case, the IT director of one of the worlds largest architectural firms based in New York recently asked Barrett to help him get trained to use Mac OS X.

"This was a diehard in the world of Windows," said Barrett, of Novaworks Computer Systems Inc., in New York. "Im seeing the renewed interest of IT managers in the Mac."

One corporation moving headlong into Macs and into upgrading to Panther is Pixar Animation Studios. The Emeryville, Calif., company about nine months ago began migrating 475 Macs to Mac OS X from Mac OS 9.

Now, along with further upgrading those machines to Panther, the company is planning to move about 500 Linux-based machines to Mac OS X and become a full Mac OS X enterprise, said Gabriel Benveniste, a Mac OS X desktop administrator at Pixar. (Apple CEO Steve Jobs also is the CEO of Pixar). One of the features attracting Pixar to Panther is FileVault, which provides 128-bit encryption for securing data within the home directory. Pixar has a substantial number of laptop users and plans to deploy FileVault as a way of securing the sensitive information those users often need to carry with them, said Bethany Jane Hanson, another Mac OS X desktop administrator at Pixar.

"The movie industry is so secretive that being able to keep secrets secured is critical," she said.

An improved software installation feature in Panther, called Network Install, also will be central to Pixars upgrade process, Benveniste said.

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