Basic Business Tools Stand in for Missing Apple Hype at Macworld

Reporter's Notebook: Even without a Steve Jobs keynote address or something as dramatic as the iPad launch, Macworld offers plenty of enterprise IT products and food for thought.

SAN FRANCISCO-The dearth of Apple hardware and creative application announcements at Macworld, held here Feb. 9 to 13, was strangely filled in by a growing number of bread-and-butter business tools designed to help IT managers corral the Macs that make it into the enterprise.

To begin with, IBM has joined the now 2-year-old Enterprise Desktop Alliance and was showing Mac clients of the company's Lotus Domino business collaboration software.

Although not new for the show, Lotus Domino 8.5.1-released in October 2009-was shown in the IBM booth. "One-third of our user base is downloading the Lotus Notes client for Mac OS X," said John Beck, an IBM program director.

According to a July 2009 Forrester report by Emil Protalinski, 3.6 percent of corporate desktops at that time were Macs. Although there is no direct correlation between the IBM download popularity and the Forrester findings, it's clear that Macs are gaining ground in corporate PC deployments.

While the EDA wasn't quite ready to reveal the results of its Mac adoption study, T. Reid Lewis, president of EDA member Group Logic, hinted that Mac usage was increasing in corporate environments. One reason he cited was the growth of employee choice in the enterprise.

"When given a choice, some employees are taking a Mac because that's what they use at home," Lewis said. Even if Macs are limited to senior executives and creative departments, this still means that two influential and high-value groups of employees are increasingly using a non-Windows platform to conduct business. And that means that IT managers should ramp up efforts now to stay ahead of the management challenges presented by including Macs among the corporate desktops.

With enterprise IT in mind I scoured the Macworld expo for potentially useful products.

To see more enterprise tools for Apple, click here.

JAMF Software was showing its Casper Suite of client management tools. To be clear, I'm not saying that Macs are more difficult to deploy or maintain than PCs. It is clear that patch management, image maintenance, inventory and application updating-when conducted to meet a business objective on an enterprise, not an individual scale-must be done using centralized tools.

JAMF had all the hallmarks of a Mac-oriented company, with a cadre of clearly excited and committed product engineers on hand to walk attendees through the ins and outs of centralized Mac management. Watch and eWEEK magazine for a full review of the Casper Suite in the near future.

One of the things I'm interested in seeing in any management product is how well it integrates with existing tools. And in this case that means PC-oriented management tools. A good example of this is CrashPlan. On the show floor the company was busy giving away consumer version licenses.

But the real news for enterprise managers is the availability of enterprise-class hardware that augments the on-site options already offered by CrashPlan. In this case, the product covers all sorts of laptops, including Mac, Windows and Linux systems.

Finally, there was a limited number of security products on the expo floor. The first question I asked these vendors was, "Why security?" Of course, there are nuisances such as tracking cookies and more assertive spyware such as keystroke loggers that exist for the Mac.

There are also a few viruses and Trojans that have been found in the wild from time to time, and these products also handle this type of malware. For companies that must prove due diligence in data protection, there may be some value in using Mac security tools. However, the very small number of vendors indicated to me that the Mac's reputation for safety was in no danger at Macworld this year.