Apple and Business — Is it 25 Years Too Late?

Apple and Business — Is it 25 Years Too Late?

Summary: Hey, Apple's releasing the Insanely Great iPhone SDK so we can all write enterprise iPhone applications! They're going to make the iPhone compete with the BlackBerry and hook it up to corporate Exchange email servers!

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Hey, Apple's releasing the Insanely Great iPhone SDK so we can all write enterprise iPhone applications! They're going to make the iPhone compete with the BlackBerry and hook it up to corporate Exchange email servers! Whoopee! Apple has a Business strategy!

Oy vey.

Look, I think it's great that Apple is finally doing something with the iPhone to make it into something that Crackberry addicts like myself might finally find as an attractive alternative. Certainly, something needs to be done to shake RIM out of its comfort zone and actually start to make them respond to very real confidence issues their customers have about their network infrastructure and their seemingly stagnant software and hardware platform. But creating an ISV ecosystem for the iPhone and hooking it up to Microsoft Exchange doth not an enterprise strategy make, and I don't give a damn how much the fanboys want to spin it or want to roast my bulging form in effigy for it.

For Apple to have a real Enterprise strategy, they are going to have to do better than iPhones and sex appeal. Certainly, it's evident that they can make high-end, boutique systems and storage of the sort for media content creation professionals and shops that used to buy SGI systems. So Apple is now the new SGI. I don't think I need to say anything more about about what happened to those guys, do I?

Much of this enterprise cluelessness stems from a 25-year history of Steve Jobs and his legacy at Apple of not really caring about what businesses actually want. I don't fault Steve Jobs for being the visionary and creative person he is -- in fact, I admire him greatly. The Apple II was my first personal computer, and I ran one of the very first NeXT labs when I was at American University in the late '80s. I also developed some very early WebObjects-based web sites and worked with OpenStep machines at Canon during the 90's, so I know very well what evolutionary roots Mac OS X stems from and what it can do for business if the technology is properly applied. The NeXT and Mac OS X technology is elegant, and there is nothing wrong with it from a pure software architecture perspective. The problem is that Steve Jobs and Apple doesn't really give a damn about how to apply the technology to business and make it attractive to enterprises in order to mass adopt it.

For Apple, pretty much throughout its entire sordid history, they've all been about empowering the individual human being with personal computing and technology -- and breaking the mold. All of us who are at least in our late 30's know and remember the "1984" superbowl commercial, the "Think Different" print ads and the current generation of "I'm a Mac, I'm A PC" series of TV spots. Apple is very good at defining its image in sound bites and marketing to its core demographic, which has paid off for them throughout its entire history. Unfortunately and predictably, this message has fallen on the enterprise as smarmyness and arrogance. If you want to put Steve Jobs and Apple into a box as far as CIOs and most real companies are concerned, Smarmyness and Arrogance about sums it up.

What can Apple do to improve its situation? The iPhone SDK and the corporate email connectivity is a good start, but it's really a drop in the bucket if Apple really wants to become an enterprise vendor and have their operating system compete with the big boys. To do that, they need to get Mac OS X into the enterprise. But enterprises aren't going to be ditching their Dell, IBM, HP and EMC servers and storage for Apple xServes. Nobody is going to be throwing out their commodity desktop PCs and laptops with Windows for shiny new Macs at the scale that would be required to make a serious dent to Windows' market share. Nobody is going to run virtualized Mac OS X Server boxes on VMWare ESX on high density blades and ultra-scalable X86 systems in the datacenter, because it's illegal to run Mac OS X on anything other than a Mac.

It's a shame, because if Apple could figure out how to play nice with those vendors, as opposed to having the Twilight-Zone style "We control the platform" and "not invented here" philosophy, we really could and truly Think Different. I have to think that if Apple's great Intel migration would have included the ability for Mac OS X Server to legally run on any x86 system, and a more open philosophy, we wouldn't necessarily be looking at Linux as the clear successor to the mid-range and high-performance UNIX platform today.

Is it ever too late for Apple to embrace a more open philosophy and give business what they really want? Talk back and let me know.

Topics: Operating Systems, Apple, Hardware, iPhone, Mobility, Software

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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204 comments
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  • Apple can not play nice

    with those vendors as we all know Apple makes it's money from the hardware. I do understand what you are saying: Let OSX Server run on a Dell, HP, or IBM, and then the iMac desktops will come.
    GuidingLight
    • Why?

      Why should Apple make their software run on Dell or any
      other platform than Apple. Part of what makes their
      products work is that they control both the software AND
      the hardware.

      You may stuff a Corvette engine in a Mustang just for the
      kicks of seeing if it COULD be done, but would you ever
      PAY somebody $70K to find out?

      What Apple is doing works for Apple and for the people
      who like Apple products.
      mollenhourb@...
      • Virtualization makes that obsolete

        "Part of what makes their products work is that they control both the software AND the hardware. "

        But if Mac OS X Server or even the current Mac OS were to be made to run on VMWare, Xen, HyperV, or any other hypervisor-based or paravirtualized solution, you would have a finite hardware stack to support, since the OS would not be talking directly to the hardware. The issue of processor affinity and drivers becomes far less important.

        With hypervisors being built into the next generation of server and desktop hardware, the argument of "controlling the hardware" no longer holds water.
        jperlow
        • Big Boys

          It will hold water as long as the OSX license holds water.

          If Apple's grip on hardware is circumvented, why complain
          about a closed Apple platform?

          If it has not been circumvented, why complain about
          additional choice in an open marketplace?

          Simply put, this is just more ZDNet hand wringing and
          cognitive dissonance. Yes, Apple has a new value
          proposition. It is to be added to the other options
          available. You can take it or leave it with thanks for your
          consideration. They are not however, going to owe you a
          living. You're going to have to get used to that.

          The enterprise will continue to get what it paid for. A
          feudal psudo economy based on the theft and proliferation
          of IBMs ROM, and the a second rate knock-off of Apple's
          GUI.

          Quite frankly, I don't think the "big boys" have much to
          brag about.
          Harry Bardal
      • Fine, keep your blinders on

        And enjoy the Mac vs PC commercials. Everyone else will keep making MS and Unix kings of the domain.
        tikigawd
      • Apple doesn't want to fight MS

        If you're talking about PCs in this statement, you're incorrect:
        "Part of what makes their products work is that they control both the software AND the hardware.

        Apple made a decision to move to the Intel X86 architecture, and in doing so, made it possible for their software to run on commodity hardware. The only thing preventing it is the combination of a license agreement and the law. Stated another way, their value is in their software...the underlying hardware is for all practical purposes THE SAME as used by Wintel machines.

        Notice that Apple computers sell for a hefty premium over Wintel machines. The hardware underneath costs the same, and the cost of developing Mac OS/X is probably not that much (if at all) higher than Windows. Thus, by bundling their O/S with hardware, Apple can require customers to buy more than they otherwise would, and make money in the process. Have you ever bought a combo pack of something, even though you only wanted one component? You gave the seller more revenue, and got the same value as if you had purchased the single component.

        Now, why doesn't Apple want to allow their O/S to run on any x86 hardware? 1) they lose the hardware sales, which probably gives them a decent margin. 2) By not bundling hardware, Apple is no longer a computer seller, but an operating system seller. Know any other such firms? A big boy on the block - Microsoft - would not go down without a (long, painful) fight. Microsoft has much more financial resource to wage a price war, marketing war, partner/supplier war, etc. It's not a fight that Apple wants to pick.

        Just my opinion.
        marc.haberkorn@...
        • apple doesn't NEED to fight MS....

          Apple is making money hand over fist... growth and profit far in excess of the rest of the PC market. when just looking at it PC business (people always want to throw iPods in to muddy the waters) Apple is the fastest growing PC manufacture in NA.

          so you are telling the most successful guy on the block (success as growth an profit, not finite market share) to emulate the other guys who are not as successful as they are.. ARE YOU GUYS COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY INSANE!! so what if manufacture X,Y or Z has a big market share if that manufacture can make a huge profit with that market share.. Apple is not in the commodity PC business and according the SJ they never will... "we don't sell junk"... they are into making money.

          Question: is it that are you guys proceeding with an extremely LAME attempt at goating Apple into an idiotic change in their business strategy OR is it that you guys are so out to lunch that you can't see that what Apple is doing is working? how can you argue with success? Apple is focused, efficient and extremely profitable.. PERIOD, FULL STOP.
          doctorSpoc
          • re: Apple doesn't NEED to fight MS

            I agree...I didn't mean to imply that they should. I'm simply giving some logical backing to their decision not to decouple software from hardware.

            The "If it's not broke, don't fix it" mantra doesn't necessarily hold in business. If you can make MORE money by doing something else, then do it. I'm simply stating my opinion that by decoupling software from hardware, Apple would open a can of worms they'd just assume stay closed.
            marc.haberkorn@...
          • fastest growing

            If you sell one apple this year and you sell two apples next year (will Johnny Appleseed still love you?), you have increased your sales by 100%. You have DOUBLED your sales, but you ain't really sold squat!
            sackbut
          • Appleytes

            Always yell.
            They feel sad when people don't agree that Apple is the holy grail of Computerdom.

            sad Appleytes. waa waaa
            tikigawd
          • Lost in the Wilderness

            Let?s do a little dissection of doctorSpoc?s argument here. I fully admit the reason why I want to do that is that I see his argument as complete utter nonsense.

            First off, quote #1:
            ?apple doesn't NEED to fight MS?.

            Obviously correct; if Apple has no goals that run counter to the goals of Microsoft. On the other hand, it?s a comment of sheer lunacy, on a corporate level if one accepts the usual ?blather? from the crazed Apple fans that Microsoft is out to eliminate the competition. If Apple has a goal not to be eliminated by Microsoft?then it is well beyond the obvious that they had better be fighting a company many times their size with both tooth and nail. It?s also as bluntly obvious, to anyone with eyeballs that work, that fighting Microsoft is exactly what Apple has been doing, pretty much forever. Witness the Mac vs. PC commercials. Those commercials are well beyond fighting language, they approach ignorance.
            Second, quote #2:
            ?Apple is making money hand over fist?

            Ok. Great. Apple is raking in so much money they are putting Microsoft to shame. Sure they are. Microsoft is hurting because Apple is so successful. Microsoft can?t keep up if this goes on for much longer. Apple is right where they want and need to be in the market place and Microsoft is getting ready to go down for the count. There is really no point in even suggesting that Apple has taken an obtuse market place stance that has locked them out of particular inroads; they are making so much money, those other markets don?t interest them nor should they. Anything that is not conducive to Apple, and Apple users view point of the world means nothing because no matter how tiny a percentage that Apple has of the computer market?it?s a very successful tiny corner of the market, and a successful company thinks like this. NO THEY DO NOT THINK LIKE THAT. Apple is fighting like mad to get a greater market share.

            Third quote?the truly stupid one #3:
            ?so you are telling the most successful guy on the block (success as growth an profit, not finite market share) to emulate the other guys who are not as successful as they are?

            All I can say about that heap of nonsense is, if doctorSpoc equates the tiny market share of the computer business that Apple has, and will continue to hold if they refuse to change, as being ?the most successful guy on the block? it is conclusive proof that not only could he never work for the most successful company in the world, which at this point is Microsoft, but if he ever came to Apple with that kind of uneducated fanatical blather looking for a job, he would be laughed out of the building and told to go get an education in what business is really all about. Because he clearly has no clue.
            Cayble
        • ...And YET, they do...

          [b]Apple made a decision to move to the Intel X86 architecture, and in doing so, made it possible for their software to run on commodity hardware. The only thing preventing it is the combination of a license agreement and the law. Stated another way, their value is in their software...the underlying hardware is for all practical purposes THE SAME as used by Wintel machines. [/b]

          All except for two differences

          1.) the use of an EFI instead of a BIOS chip.
          2.) the TPM chip that bonds OSX to the Mac hardware.


          [b]Now, why doesn't Apple want to allow their O/S to run on any x86 hardware? 1) they lose the hardware sales, which probably gives them a decent margin. 2) By not bundling hardware, Apple is no longer a computer seller, but an operating system seller. Know any other such firms? A big boy on the block - Microsoft - would not go down without a (long, painful) fight. Microsoft has much more financial resource to wage a price war, marketing war, partner/supplier war, etc. It's not a fight that Apple wants to pick. [/b]

          And yet, that IS exactly what they're doing with their Mac vs PC ads. Isn't it...? What else would you call it when you're comparing your platform to the competition (the PC)??

          And the worst part of it, the Mac vs PC ads are 90% FUD and Bovine Fertilizer.
          Wolfie2K3
          • Well, You're on the Right Track

            Apple's competitors in those ads are Dell and HP, etc. Apple
            has chosen themes and messages based on their assumption
            that the most favorable differentiator is the experience, and
            that is represented by the operating systems. But, and this is
            perhaps subtle, a person in Fry's looking at a box of OS X
            Leopard and a box of Vista Home Premium Upgrade is looking
            at those choices only because they own Apple hardware. (Come
            to think of it, that customer has already bought Leopard so
            they can use Windows with BootCamp.)
            DannyO_0x98
          • Some points

            [i]Apple's competitors in those ads are Dell and HP, etc[/i]

            Uh.. "PC guy" looks awfully familiar... Maybe a certain mogul based out of Redmond? Yeah, Apple is not attacking MS with e PC vs Mac ads. Not at all.


            [i]Come to think of it, that customer has already bought Leopard so they can use Windows with BootCamp[/i]
            Why do you guys always tout running Win in BootCamp as such a revolutionary feature? Oh wow, a virtual machine. That is so cool!!!!! :D Who else could have come up with that concept? Oh wait, everyone else. Yes, in case you didn't know, all other platforms can also run other OSes. Except for Mac OS. Why is that...? Hmm.. oh yeah. If Apple allowed that then people wouldn't HAVE to buy the ?ber-cost-effective iBoxes.
            You should be thanking Linux and MS that you can run their OSes on your hardware. That way you can actually run some useful programs on that VM and actually get some sort of value out of your iBox
            tikigawd
        • Bingo!

          Why would Jobs want to go mano-a-mano with the Redmond? He already did once and got creamed. Come on guys do you think MS is going to let Apple grow into a real threat? If by some miracle OSX managed to get double-digit penetration Redmond would start drawing out the long knives. Exactly why would Apple want another near-death (or total death) experience?

          Apple's step-by-step plan make sense for Apple. Steve can submarine beneath Redmond's gaze and scarf up some ducats that MS missed. Apple does not have to big foot into the business scene all at once. It is best that Apples starts out small and target toward niche markets. There are a lot of small to medium sized business that might just like the tightly bundled machine that Apple makes. As these business don't have a CIO or even an IT department- CIO / IT Dept hostility is moot point.

          Again not being on the radar for big business can be a benefit. MS for one reason or another has been ignoring the needs of smaller business. Apple can quietly push MS out of the lower tier by offering small, leveraged, Boutique products that target specific businesses. MS, occupied with servicing fortune 500 companies may never see Apple coming in that blind spot. It makes sense for Apple to stay in that blind spot as long as it can.
          spincitysd@...
      • Apple run on non-Apple systems..

        Maybe they don't "have what it takes", that is technical not able.
        drbiz
  • Can't be everything to everyone

    I admire Apple's focus, creating products for consumers and
    creative professionals.

    I am sure the stockholders want to see growth in other
    sectors with iPod sales slowing. Business is one place to go.
    However, enterprise sales should be an additional, adjunct
    business -- like icing on the cake -- and not the thrust of
    Apple.
    supergiantrobot
    • I generally agree

      I have always said that Apple makes a mighty fine piece of hardware for those that find Apple provides everything they want. They look slick, run slick and they are a secure platform.

      But Apple computers still cannot do many things that a PC can, and for an Apple user that doesn't care, all is still right with the world.

      Apple has a focus, and clearly for lovers of their products the focus is as spot on as could be and makes a standard PC and Windows irrelevant.

      On the other hand, where Apple enthusiasts drop to the level where they lose sight of the fact that Apple computers fall very far short of meeting the needs and interests of the majority of the population, they are just simply lost in their own love of their Apple hardware.

      I just love the Apple apologists who try and claim its easy to upgrade and customize an Apple. I want to see someone install that new 790i motherboard with SLI nVidia video cards into their recently purchased iMac. Forget it. Its not going to happen. I see the thought process is that an iMac purchaser has no interest in that and that is perfectly fine for them. Just stop pretending that their choice is the only one that makes sense. Maybe for them...yes. But for 90% of the world, NO.
      Cayble
  • Apple: The Business of Simple Gadgets

    Apple has never been an Enterprise anything and it's too late to start now.

    Apple has become a gadget company with iPods and iPhones. The next thing they will produce is a game console. Can you imagine Apple in the Data Center? A whole rack of servers with only one button. C'mon...fugedaboutit over here. Apple needs to stick to what it does best: Making people crazy over their over-simplified gadgets. Thanks for making it simple Apple, I couldn't possible deal with another gadget with 104 buttons on it...oh wait...how am I typing this? Speaking of Enterprise...can you see Apple: The Creator of Star Trek. The Enterprise would have had only one guy on the bridge with one button on his chair. But he would be able to make some great special effects with it.
    How will Apple handle all the buttons on the Blackberry? How can you text anyone with all those darn buttons?
    Sorry, got off on a tangent there. No, Apple will never be able to break-in to the Data Center or do anything Enterprise-related. They just don't have the business model or sense to do it.
    Hey Apple, I have some advice. If you want to get into the Enterprise or the Data Center, add another button to your freakin' mouse...otherwise stick with mp3 players and phones that when you turn 'em sideways the screen turns sideways too. Use your powers for good Apple. Use your powers for good.
    jessie.kriste@...
    • *rollseyes*

      You obviously have ZERO experience with Apple's servers. Namey the Xserve. Which is a pretty kick ass 1U server. It has the same hardware features as every other 1U server in its price bracket, comes with an unlimited user license, and can be made tor un just as well as a linux server, and will run most of the same software than linux will run. Apple was a computer company long before it made iPod's. You seem to be totally forgetting this rather large fact.
      Stuka