Apple acknowledges user frustrations over roadmap

Apple acknowledges user frustrations over roadmap

Summary: Apple yesterday conceded corporate IT workers are "always" complaining about its secretive product roadmap -- but warned the only way to get up to speed is to invest thousands of dollars and a full working week attending its annual US-based developer conference.

Apple yesterday conceded corporate IT workers are "always" complaining about its secretive product roadmap -- but warned the only way to get up to speed is to invest thousands of dollars and a full working week attending its annual US-based developer conference.

"People always complain that Apple doesn't give systems admins or systems architects enough of a roadmap of where our technologies are going," the vendor's Asia-Pacific head of developer relations, Craig Bradley, told an audience of third-party developers in Sydney yesterday.

Bradley was referring to Apple's notorious culture of corporate secrecy that sees very little information released about the vendor's products before they actually hit the market.

The official Apple line was backed up by David Colville, technology director for Key Options Technology, an Australian systems integrator specialising in Apple's Mac OS X operating system.

At the Apple-hosted event, Colville said it could be a "real challenge" integrating Apple's products in the enterprise space.

"Our target markets are corporate, they want to be able to plan two years ahead, sometimes three years ahead," he said, pointing out such customers wanted him to look into his crystal ball and predict vendor roadmaps over that time. Colville said with Apple that crystal ball could be "very cloudy".

But Bradley and Colville both gave the audience only one way out of the Apple dilemma: go to Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), held annually and approaching in August.

Those attending the conference get a clear roadmap of Apple's software development plans up to 18 months ahead, Colville said. "The crystal ball gets a little less cloudy," he said.

"This is the event to be at," agreed Bradley.

"This is where we do speak about these technologies. We'll be setting the foundations for our next operating system, which is going to take us through the next couple of years."

Apple's internal engineers also attend, solving problems and demonstrating technology. And that's not all -- Apple's Cupertino campus also plays host to what Bradley described as "pretty much a beer-bash".

These privileges don't come cheap though, with attendees paying up to US$1595 for the five day event and being required to comply with non-disclosure provisions about confidential information available there.

Bradley said Apple would "definitely" be demonstrating its new Leopard operating system at this year's conference, although he declined to reveal any details ahead of time.

Apple chief executive officer Steve Jobs would have that privilege, he said.

Problem with perception?
Colville went on to detail some of the challenges of providing Macintosh-based solutions to businesses.

He noted the Apple choice came with a perceived "extra cost and risk" compared with the Windows alternative, in addition to perceived compatibility issues.

In addition, he said, Apple's previous operating system, Mac OS 9, had a reputation for instability that was still around, despite the newer Mac OS X's strong stability record.

Key Options is currently involved in a rollout of Apple Xserve servers in the New South Wales Department of Education.

But Colville admitted his business, which has five full-time staff and some contractors, did other work on the side, doing about 30 percent of its work in the areas of Linux, Windows and networking services.

He said his business growth and profit would be stunted if he only did Mac-focused work.

Despite the complications of being a Mac OS X integrator, Colville is clearly still enthusiastic about Apple as a vendor. During the presentation he demonstrated some of the innovative uses of Mac OS X to the audience, such as the operating systems' new ability to run side by side with Microsoft's Windows on Apple's new Intel-enabled laptops.

Topic: Apple

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  • Apple's Roadmap Frustrations

    Yes it is unfortunate that one has to go to a yearly event to hear about what's coming when all the other vendors come to you quarterly to show you their directions. On top of that you will never get a preproduction product out of Apple to pilot in your corporate environment until it is officially released whereas other vendors will loan you preproduction hardware to test for ease of integration and supportability with your existing systems and procedures.
  • WWDC Sydney

    No, I don
  • Re: WWDC Sydney

    Hi there,

    first of all thanks for your comments!

    It's true, David Colville did say that corporate secrecy was part of Apple's success. However, this doesn't necessarily make the situation easy for corporate users who are seeking to plan sometimes years ahead when implementing products.

    Regarding the beer-bash comment, Craig Bradley did in fact make that statement, I recorded the conference so I know I have the quote correct.

    Kind regards,

    Renai LeMay
    (the author)
  • Cost of WWDC *NOT* Expensive

    The cost to attend the WWDC is not out of line with tech industry fees for these types of events. Stop trying to put a negative spin on this article. Geeze.
  • It's not the roadmap that's the problem, it's support

    Bradley's remarks are typical of an individual in sales who is not paying attention to the climate that is left behind *after* a sale. The problem isn't just predicting what Apple might do in the future. What IT people really care about is getting the stuff to work NOW. While Apple may boast about its achievements in the consumer support space, they are absolutely miserable when it comes to supporting their Enterprise customer AT THEIR LEVEL. The best they are currently able to do is provide "high-end-consumer" level support to these folks, which does NOT cut the mustard and will NOT result in repeat sales.
  • Handle it like Microsoft

    Next version will have Feature A, B, C and D...

    opps...we are dropping B for now...but it will come later...

    opps...we are dropping C for now...but....

    perhaps Apple's method is not so bad :)
  • Apple gives pre-release software

    Anyone who joins Apple's developer program at the higher levels gets access to all pre-release software from Apple - just like MSDN, the Developer Connection is the only way to get the 'inside knowledge'
  • Interpretation

    I also have my opinions about what apple should do. However, that
  • Interpretation

    Hi there,

    thanks for your input again! Always happy to take criticism. If you would be interested in writing a commentary (opinionated article) using your insights on the issue, I would definitely pass it on to my editor to be considered for publication on ZDNet Australia.

    Please feel free to send me an e-mail at

    Kind regards,

    Renai LeMay
    (the author)
  • Maybe being quiet is a smarter thing to do...

    They are an innovative company. Why announce products before they are delivered - Other companies will just rip them off. If you have a Mac and OS-X and it does the job well now for your company you don't have to "hang out" for the next version - just look forward to it!

    I use Windows at work and keep up with their roadmap to see if they will just "fix" the problems with the current release. They have never been innovative and I can't see anything exciting with Vista (if it ever arrives). I've never used Vista but already am "bored" with it from the screenshots/articles...

    May be it's just a case that we can't get enough of a good thing from Apple! Journalists should keep an eye out for what MS will do to undermine Apple since they don't seem capable of competing with better products...