Should Apple Even Care About the Enterprise?

Apple might be targeting the enterprise, but the real question now is whether or not it should. Is Apple a hardware company or a software company? This question is coming to the fore-again-because with the advent of Windows 7, enterprises will be deciding whether the time has come to finally upgrade the hardware to the new version. But given Apple's long-established market strategy, it just might not be important for Apple to win new enterprise converts to its operating system platform.

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The debate over whether or not the business world should deploy Windows 7 rages on. Some say it's an iterative update over Windows Vista and, thus, not worth deploying. Others believe it's the operating system that Microsoft should have created in the first place. They believe it's perfect for the enterprise.
The same debate can be contested about Apple's upcoming release of Snow Leopard, the follow-up to Mac OS X Leopard. Snow Leopard sports some nifty features. Users looking to have Exchange support in Mac OS X will finally have it. Thanks to 64-bit architecture, Snow Leopard's native apps, including Finder and Mail, will run much faster than users are accustomed to on Leopard. Apple even updated the software's Spotlight Search to make it easier to find files. It's certainly a compelling upgrade. And for $29 for a single install to $49 for a family five-pack, it's tough to argue with the price.
But then again, Snow Leopard has some serious flaws that might not make it ideal for the enterprise.
First off, there's little support for business applications. For the most part, software developers create software for Windows. Historically, it has been the best operating system for business users and, because of its domination of the business market, it only made sense for developers to focus their time developing for Windows rather than any other operating system. At the same time, Apple hasn't played nice with developers, deciding instead to keep its operating system closed down to control the Mac OS X ecosystem. It helps keep the operating system secure, but it damages the company's ability to attract developers.
That issue of security is another problem that Snow Leopard faces. Without a doubt, Apple's latest operating system will be its most tested yet. Since the release of Mac OS X Tiger, more security outbreaks have targeted Mac OS X users. Part of that is due to their contention that they're perfectly safe using Mac OS X, and part of that is Apple's propaganda machine that helps perpetuate that myth. The reality is Mac OS X hasn't been tested enough. Snow Leopard will be attacked by malicious hackers. Enterprise customers just don't know what could happen. Worst of all, there are so few anti-virus and anti-spyware programs available for Mac OS X, there's not much a company can do to keep itself safe.
These are obviously glaring issues that Apple needs to face if it wants to target the enterprise. But perhaps the better question is not how it can solve those problems, but whether or not Apple should really even care about the enterprise. Granted, it has added some features that make its operating system more business-friendly, but in the end, Apple has followed the right strategy: appeal to consumers and drop in a few enterprise features to boot. It makes sense. Apple isn't a software company that relies on the sale of its applications to make money-it's a hardware company. The software is just a means to an end.

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger is a longtime freelance contributor to several technology and business publications. Over his career, Don has written about everything from geek-friendly gadgetry to issues of privacy...