Reports are swirling, claiming Snow Leopard, Apple’s follow-up to its current operating system, Leopard, will be hitting store shelves much sooner than originally expected. In fact, the rumors suggest that it will actually be made available Aug. 28. It’s an ambitious goal. But if it is true, it still won’t help Apple’s chances in the enterprise. The reality is, no matter how much lead time Snow Leopard has, it can’t match Windows 7.
Snow Leopard promises to be an iterative update. It won’t be earth-shattering. It won’t feature upgrades that will revolutionize the market. It won’t even boast a new, unique design. This time around, Snow Leopard is designed to be faster and slightly more robust.
When Apple first announced Snow Leopard, the company spent considerable time talking about the software’s use of 64-bit architecture. According to Apple, Snow Leopard’s native apps, including Finder, will run much faster than they currently do on Leopard. Apple also updated Expose and Stacks to make them more useful for those that are trying to negotiate multiple windows at the same time. But perhaps one of the most important updates made to Snow Leopard is Microsoft Exchange support. Exchange will now work with Address Book, iCal and Mail.
For the enterprise, Exchange support is a must-have. Some companies that were looking to switch to Mac OS X after trying desperately to get out from under Windows Vista were unable to do so without Exchange support. Now that Mac OS X will have it, the switch to Apple’s operating system won’t be as bad-or so Apple claims.
The reality is, even with Snow Leopard’s improved features and the possibility of a two-month head start, it won’t match Windows 7 in the enterprise. It doesn’t have the features, nor the support, nor the appeal that Windows does. Admittedly, Windows Vista was a mistake that Microsoft needs to make up for. But it wasn’t such a huge mistake that it would make too many companies switch to a Mac. Whether Apple likes it or not, the enterprise is still suspect of Mac OS X.
One of the biggest problems facing Mac OS X is compatibility. With Snow Leopard, Apple didn’t make any effort to open its platform to third-party developers that want to bring their corporate software to the OS. That follows a long line of Apple products that have also neglected third-party software.
Apple Strategy Remains the Same
Apple doesn’t care, though. Apple’s culture dictates control. It wants its platforms to be locked down as much as possible to ensure a robust running environment. For the most part, that has worked-Mac OS X tends to be quite stable. At the same time, businesses hoping to switch to the OS will find that many of the programs that they rely on each day simply aren’t available. It’s a problem.
But it goes beyond program compatibility. The contention that Mac OS X is inherently more secure than Windows is starting to erode. With each day, more security issues pelt the operating system. Just last week, Apple announced more than a dozen security fixes to its operating system that, if left unpatched, would have allowed hackers to access system files. IT managers are starting to take notice. They realize that Apple has cultivated a feeling that by using a Mac, everything will be just fine. They now know that not even a Mac can protect corporate files from dangerous hackers. They also know that by not acknowledging that, Apple is possibly ignoring security holes that could cause a major outbreak. Windows does have more security issues. But Microsoft also has made security a key focus in its strategy going forward. That should be applauded.
Perhaps the main reason why Apple’s Snow Leopard release date won’t matter to the enterprise is because Apple has made it all too clear that the business world is an after-thought in its strategy. For decades, the company has had a less-than-cordial relationship with businesses. It doesn’t provide them with ideal support. Patches come too slowly. And updates are few and far between. Apple’s focus has always been on its hardware and consumers. It believes that a key differentiating factor in its strategy is that it can provide unique hardware to consumers who covet it most.
That’s precisely why it’s not too concerned about working with third-party developers to increase the number of business applications that will work with Mac OS X. It’s also why Exchange support was such an after-thought. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with Apple focusing mostly on the consumer space, but it’s to its detriment in the enterprise. And as Microsoft has proven by dominating both markets, it’s not impossible to focus on both sectors at the same time.
Regardless, Apple’s focus plays a big part in whether or not Snow Leopard will be a success in the enterprise. Will it increase market share over the next few months? It’s possible. But when the dust clears, it will undoubtedly be Windows 7 that will dominate the enterprise market for the next few years.
So, while it’s exciting that Snow Leopard might hit store shelves sooner than expected, it won’t change much in the business world.