Is Mac OS X Tiger Rolling Over on Windows Support?

Opinion: Could Apple be skimping on Windows integration with its forthcoming "Tiger" version of Mac OS X? Support for Mac clients in the enterprise still looks scant to many on the front lines.

Apple Computer Inc. CEO Steve Jobs recently waved the flag for a stack of new technologies due in Mac OS X 10.4, such as expanded support for 64-bit processing and the Spotlight search engine. While the Mac OS X "Tiger" looks promising, from the perspective of someone integrating Mac clients into enterprise networks, it looks more like a paper tiger.

At his Apple Worldwide Developers Conference keynote address, Steve Jobs spent a grand total of 30 seconds on the Tiger clients Windows compatibility features.

Two of the features listed on the slide (SMB home folders and Kerberos authentication) were features Apple has previously claimed were already in the currently shipping OS X 10.3, aka "Panther" version. Jobs referred to one of the bullet points as "better authentication with Kerberos and whatever that is." He meant NTLMv2 (NT LanMan), Microsofts secure authentication protocol.

Now, one could write this off to Jobs interest in sexy products such as the companys new 30-inch flat-panel display. But this inattention to the Mac as enterprise client extended to other conference sessions later in the week.

During a nearly content-free session titled "State of the Enterprise," Apple hyped its server hardware, Xserve RAID storage system, and its Windows NT migration tool.

Apple then gave up the stage to Oracle Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc., pitching Oracle 10g (announced for the Mac some 18 months ago but only now available to developers) and the wonders of Java development, respectively. Client-side issues, including the 800-pound gorilla of Active Directory integration, were conspicuously absent.

/zimages/5/28571.gifTo read a review of Xserve and Xserve RAID, click here.

If Apple has a cross-platform client strategy for Mac OS X, it is playing it close to its vest.

But Derick Naef, chief operating officer of networking developer Group Logic Inc., of Arlington, Va., said WWDC attendees received some useful information about the Tiger client later in the week.

"There wasnt anything groundbreaking, but there were incremental improvements," he said. "They are moving in the right direction."

The promise of even incremental improvements would have been welcome for admins struggling with Mac clients. So, why focus instead on the harder sell of migrating from Windows servers to Mac servers?


The answer could be seen in the David vs. Goliath motif plastered over the conference. While Jobs mocked the long development cycle of Microsofts Longhorn, movie-screen-sized banners all over Moscone Center did the same.

"Apple tends to see their business differently then their customers do," said Paul Nelson, vice president of engineering at Thursby Software Systems Inc., of Arlington, Texas. The company offers a variety of Windows network sharing products for Mac clients.

"Apple sees themselves as competitors to Microsoft. Customers, on the other hand, are concerned about getting the best experience for the money," he said. And that user experience revolves around having Mac clients play nice in Windows networks.

Next Page: Separate and unequal.