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Apple's Enterprise IT Battle Plan, Part Two

By Elizabeth Millard MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
May 24, 2004 7:40 AM PT

In the first part of this story [Elizabeth Millard, "Apple's Enterprise IT Battle Plan, Part One," MacNewsWorld, May 21, 2004], MacNewsWorld looked at how Apple has been attempting to enter the enterprise through its hardware, such as Xserve and Xserve RAID.

Apple's Enterprise IT Battle Plan, Part Two

Doug Brooks, Apple's product manager for server and storage hardware, told MacNewsWorld that the company has seen tremendous growth in Xserve adoption. He added that there is optimism within the company that Apple's hardware will find a spot in the budgets of IT departments into the future as well.

Hardware, though, is only half of an enterprise push. For Apple truly to win a place in the corporate market, it has to be able to deliver software that can hold up to the industry standards. This is no easy feat, and some analysts believe that with all the marketing muscle in the world, Apple will not be able to do it.

Can Apple gain a foothold in the volatile enterprise market with software as well as hardware?

Serving It Up

The Xserve might be slowly gaining a place in the infrastructure of some companies, but it was the Mac OS server software that came first, and made an impression, according to Brooks.

"The server software began to establish itself slowly," he said. "But it did establish itself, and its success was the genesis of the development of the Xserve."

So far, the server software has been used mainly in Apple's core markets of education and graphic design, but there have been some adoptions coming out of other areas as well. Brooks noted that federal government agencies have been interested, as well as those in the scientific and technical-computing arena.

"We've made major improvements to the software over the last few years," Brooks said. "That makes for a very strong product line."

Apple's Alternative Solutions

Tom Goguen, director of worldwide software product marketing at Apple, said that Apple's growing enterprise software product line offers an integrated solution that combines an open source Unix distribution with the sort of testing, integration and management tools that make its complete enterprise offering a reliable alternative. In addition, Goguen pointed out that, unlike Microsoft, Mac OS X Server has an unlimited client license.

"Our philosophy is that, if you bought it, and you connect 100,000 users to it, more power to you," Goguen told MacNewsWorld.

Apple's will release its latest enterprise software offering, Xsan, an enterprise-class file system, this fall, said Goguen. According to him, it will be the first enterprise-class, multi-seed SAN solution of its type that will cost under US$1,000 per system.

Goguen said that Xsan is being targeted to the Apple's professional customer base, which includes the film, video and design industries, although Xsan is being targeted to general enterprise customers as well.

Repenting Sins

In terms of other business-geared software, consumers might appreciate Apple's office suite, but it is having difficulty finding a place in enterprises, IDC analyst Roger Kay told MacNewsWorld.

"Locking people out of the broader ecosystem of development was a key sin," Kay said. "Business didn't appreciate that."

Although Microsoft also offered proprietary software at the same time as Apple, Microsoft products were able to interact with other applications. Because Apple's software did not, it gained a reputation for having only closed systems.

Also, Apple was slower in courting the corporate market, Kay noted. "They didn't have an office suite early enough, and that was a nail in the coffin for them," he said. "Because of that, business abandoned Apple."

The company has not given up the fight, though. It has put a great deal of effort into beefing up applications like Microsoft Office for Mac. The 2004 version promises a new productivity suite that helps users create, manage and distribute projects.

Potential Developments

Apple is continually at work on software in several different business areas, including accounting, office management, marketing, network management, wireless and online business.

"Apple certainly recognizes opportunities," Aberdeen analyst Peter Kastner told MacNewsWorld. "It may well turn up the heat in the coming year by going after specialized markets within enterprises."

The year ahead will also mark the release of Tiger, the company's fifth version of its OS X operating system. In an interview with MacNewsWorld, Ron Okamoto, Apple's vice president of Worldwide Developer Relations, explained that the OS has attracted developers from different areas in the last few years.

Gurus from the open source, Java, and Unix communities have been eager to work with OS X, and Okamoto noted that this could be important for future application development.

"It's very interesting to watch these guys take code and, in a weekend, get it running on a Mac," he said.

Long Road

Despite the efforts being made to make Apple into an enterprise-class contender, many analysts believe that the company would have to make a major push to win over IT departments at larger companies.

"Very big companies have huge [management information systems] staffs that can deal with designing, integrating, and managing very complex technology," Kastner said. "They tend not to want to use Apple, which is attractive to smaller companies."

Indeed, if Apple is going to infiltrate the enterprise through its software as well as its hardware, small to medium-sized businesses are the ones that will be the entry point. Apple already woos this audience very seriously, and Kastner noted that it is gaining ground by doing so.

"Apple has put emphasis on SMBs because it can show value through simplicity," he said. "Apple products are highly valued by companies with modest IT development and management capabilities."

While Apple may not be able to conquer every office, it is not unreasonable to say that in the future, many more businesses will use Apple hardware and software than in the past. The company's fresh focus on interoperability and competitive pricing have made their products an option for companies that would have passed them by just a few years ago.

"Apple has been very averse to attacking the broad enterprise market," Kastner said. "But they aren't going to pass up any opportunities, either."

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