It wasn’t that long ago that Apple courted the enterprise IT dollar with rack-mounted servers, solid and reliable RAID arrays, grid computing and storage networking. Today, that’s just a memory.
Although Apple continues to maintain and support server software, such as Xgrid and Xsan, the hardware is history. But after the first-day sellout of this year’s Worldwide Developer Conference, I’m beginning to wonder if Apple holds some kind of grudge against enterprise developers.
Apple’s move away from enterprise hardware was inevitable as it continues to evolve, from being a company that made computers, to one that sells gadgets and takes a cut from the sale of content for those gadgets. Since the enterprise never embraced Apple’s computers, it’s hard to fault founder and CEO Steve Jobs and his minions for returning the favor-if that is indeed what’s taking place. I can’t blame Apple for pulling the plug on its server-class hardware. It’s hard to make money in that market in the best of times, and the last few years have been anything but “the best” for enterprise IT.
But in contrast to their outright hostility to the Mac platform, business IT leaders seem to be embracing Apple’s mobile devices, especially now that the iPad is proving its usefulness in corporate settings. Corporate developers, who once considered the idea of coding for the Mac to be a waste of time, are being asked to take their skills and apply them to the creation of applications for iOS devices.
With interest in developing iOS applications for the enterprise at an all-time high, one would think that this year’s WWDC would have a lot to offer corporate developers, but that doesn’t seem to be happening. Apple is following the dollar, and courting game developers instead.
As the blog AppleInsider pointed out shortly after registrations closed, corporate developers were in all likelihood shut out from any hope of attending. After all, on the best of days, it usually takes more than a few hours to get the permission of one’s bosses and bean counters to attend a show where fundamental expenses-registration ($1,599), airfare (for a round number, let’s use $700) and hotel (let’s call that $200 per night, for four or five nights)-can easily exceed $3,000 before one’s even left for the airport.
I think it’s interesting that Apple is quite happy to charge corporate developers three times what “civilian” developers pay for access to the iOS application-development program, while effectively not inviting the former to Apple’s biggest developer-oriented clambake. Granted, the enterprise developers aren’t shackled by the walled garden that is Apple’s iTunes App Store, as the iOS Enterprise Program is strictly aimed at application development for internal consumption; that, alone, may be worth the extra coin.
But given Apple’s fickle behavior in years past, the company might actually be doing enterprise developers another favor in excluding them from WWDC. After all, when the iPhone debuted, Web-based applications were the new hotness and developers were told that Apple had no plans to extend Cocoa to mobile devices.
Fast-forward to today. Web applications are yesterday’s news, and Cocoa Touch is where it’s at for iOS. It also turns out that those applications that use the embedded iOS Web viewer can’t leverage the performance optimizations that Apple has built into the mobile version of its Safari Web browser.
It may be that by skipping WWDC, enterprise developers can resist the lure of Apple’s famed reality-distortion field, and focus on the needs of their internal customers for the long haul. Given the way RIM and Mozilla have embraced Android, that’s looking like the better bet for mobile enterprise applications with every day that passes. Nevertheless, it would be nice of Apple to admit that it sees the enterprise as irrelevant, when so much of its income is derived from games and pop stars.