Apple is not enterprise class

Apple is not enterprise class

Summary: Lack of adequate support for Apple computers combined with known but unresolved problems means Apple fails the enterprise taste test

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TOPICS: Microsoft, Apple
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There have been a flurry of stories that suggest Apple is getting serious about enterprise. United buying all its pilots an iPad only adds fuel to that argument. iPad apps are on show at just about every enterprise apps conference and briefing I attend. All looking good so far. But there's a couple of things that cause problems.

The first is that Apple doesn't seem to have much clue how to differentiate a genuine enterprise app from a consumer app. Net-net, it means that while vendors can and will build for iPad, they will never charge for them in any serious way via the Apple AppStore. They wont give Apple Inc 30% of revenue even though there is a strong case for arguing that's relatively cheap marketing and distribution. Those flogging apps that carry subscription based pricing have an even bigger problem - at least perceptually - though again I would argue that's less of an issue than it at first sounds. Be that as it may. There's road block number one for you. Road block number two is much more problematic.

Unreliable at best

Apple kit is just not that reliable. As I am writing this, I am staring at two dead MacBookPros and one faltering MacBookPro plus an iMac with a network sickness that is mind numbingly frustrating. That together with another MB, iPhone, Mac Mini, Apple TV (x2) various Airport Extreme boxes and a Time Machine represents a hefty investment in Apple but it is the computers which cause so many problems - at least in our house.

The MB Pro has a dickey track pad. I've overcome that by shelling out for a new mouse but every now and then it develops a life of its own with the mouse pointer scrolling uncontrollably across the screen. I have a cure. I hit the trackpad sharply with my fist. Its hardly the sort of behavior one regards as seemly in public. I can get away with it because people know I sometimes have a bad temper. But for others it would likely be an embarrassment. It's only a matter of time before the trackpad develops immunity to my cure. The iMac problem is an order of magnitude more worrying because it is unpredictable.

Internet connection failure

Note: see the quick and dirty video I shot that illustrates the following problem (above). Also note that while the video shows an ethernet connection on one machine and Airport connection on the other, it makes no difference if the ethernet connection is switched to Airport. The only thing 'fix' that works for me is a full reboot. And that is only temporary.

At random times, the network status will show that it is not connected to the internet nor the server. This despite the fact network settings and ISP are 'green.' The diagnostics routine suggests rebooting the router although that never rectifies the problem. And I know it isn't the router because all other machines on the network can get internet access just fine. Rebooting the whole machine works for maybe 10 minutes and then the internet connection fails again. If I leave the iMac off overnight then I might get 2-3 hours in the morning.

I've spent hours trawling through the forums on this topic and it seems that hundreds of users have reported this issue on iMac (and on MB Pro.)  That would be OK if there was a clear answer but there isn't. Here's one brief thread that says it all.

This is the most complete set of threads I've found to date although I have also found related threads going back to 2004.

This post pretty much sums up where people are at:

Let me add to this topic. I bought an iMac 27" in January and I have been having similar problems for two months now. The machine has been in twice to have parts replaced and is going in again this week.

The symptoms are the same each time. First the wireless connection slows down, then it drops out intermittently and then it stops working altogether.

At the first repair the Airport card was replaced. At the second repair the airport card and the motherboard were replaced. I don't know what they are going to do this time. If it fails again I will be requesting a replacement computer.

I have Applecare support and they have had me trying everything. Resetting the computer, adding new locations, changing the wireless channel - you name it. I have no issue with their efforts to help me.

We have a 15" Macbook pro, iMAc 24", two iphones, a Nintendo Wii and two Nintendo DSIs that all connect fine to the Netgear router.

The thing that stands out is that I have installed iStumbler on the iMac 27" it can't detect any networks at all from that machine. iStumbler on the iMac 24" shows that there are 2+ networks available at any time. This would seem to point to issues with the Airport card or its antenna.

I'm inclined to agree with suggestions from other posters that overheating may be causing the issue/

cheers,

Darren

Everything from conflicting WIFi channels to interference from baby alarms, to over heating, to moving the Airport box, to changing specific network settings and defective Airport Extreme cards have been offered as reasons why this condition arises. In each case, users have found some sort of solution. But most don't. Or, solutions only work temporarily.

Today I found a suggested fix file (dang - can't find the link but if anyone wants the file then please email me and I'll pass it on.) That has helped some people, but not me. Like so many attempts, it worked for a while then failed.

As an (almost) last resort I ran across a possible solution that involves taking all the cables out of the iMac (including the power cable) holding the power key down for seven seconds and then powering up while pressing Command-Option-P-R. That works for longer than most other fixes but ultimately fails.

As a real last resort, I have a spare Airport Extreme card which I will fit when I have the time to potentially destroy my iMac. Preferably before I destroy my MB Pro.

The worst part is that not only is this an issue that has been running in various guises for several years, Apple staff often come away stumped as to the root cause. They find a fix, assume things are OK and then the problem resurfaces. It is leading to some very annoyed people, best summed up by this comment:

In total I spent 2500 Euro's for an iMac and regret every Euro of it.

I wanted to buy only Apple products but now, after this disappointment, I will never buy an other Apple product again.

Apple(OS X) isn't any better or worse than an ordinary Windows PC but you pay double for it.

From an enterprise standpoint this is unacceptable because the problem occurs on new and older machines. It is a well documented, long run issue that Apple has not solved and which now appears to be spilling over into Lion. It is indicative of a company that does not care about its products and users as long as they look cool. That doesn't wash in enterprise land.

Now - you can argue that Apple is reasonably generous with its replacement policy, often providing new equipment that has run out of warranty albeit on an arbitrary basis. But I cannot imagine any enterprise IT department being happy with that situation. They want certainty and reliability. We expect to replace equipment but when you are already paying a hefty premium for a computer then you expect something called service and support where problems are resolved. Apple does not have that in place for enterprise purposes.

You can also argue that the tablet is the next business computing device but that doesn't hold water today. There are many things I cannot realistically do on an iPad - like post to blogs, edit video, audio. Run a spreadsheet? Forget it. Basically, the iPad is a read only, simple input device. I cannot create decent content on that device. I still need a reliable laptop/desktop machine and I suspect that will be the case for many years to come.

So back to why we won't be an Apple only house very shortly.

No longer exclusively Apple

The next wave of content creation will see video production soar. For the average person, iMovie does just fine. But if you want to do more then you need to use something like Adobe Premiere. Forget Final Cut X - it's almost useless for anything one can remotely call professional. But here's the real catch.

If you want to produce HD H.264 16:9 video for...say YouTube then you need a very hefty processor and a LOT of memory. The alternative is locking up your 4GB iMac for hours on end. You could shell out a few thousand dollars for one of the new iMacs but that doesn't solve the underlying problem and of course there may still be that pesky network issue to contend with.

I specc'd up an 8-core i7 Xeon Westmere MacPro and came to an eye watering number. The dollar amount was bad enough but by the time the EU has levied its various taxes and Apple has added regional uplifts it was clear that was out of range.

Instead I have ordered a bespoke i7 Windows box that I can readily upgrade built onto a gaming machine chassis. The total price, which includes Raid0 and SSD drives is 30% of what I would pay for an equivalent MacPro. It will run on the network just fine plus I have the comfort of knowing that all the parts are readily replaced should anything go wrong. Can Apple offer me the same assurance? Nope.

UPDATE - I've gone for the nuclear option. Reinstall OSX 10.5 and see what happens...all data backed up onto secondary drive. All bar a handful of apps really need to be on the HD, so again, no real problem. If this works then I will have isolated the issue to something in the 10.6 OS - which is where my suspicions lay. I don't have much to lose by going this route. Wish me luck...

UPDATE 2 - I foolishly thought Time Machine would allow me to reinstall seamlessly. That didn't go so well. Reverted to old Leopard installer and that got me to where I need to be. Only one glitch so far - Evernote is not backwardly compatible. It took forever to find the right file to get version 2. Another lesson learned - while most of what I use can be downloaded, it's a good idea to keep backups of the installers but away from the main machine. Same goes for license keys.

Topics: Microsoft, Apple

Dennis Howlett

About Dennis Howlett

Dennis Howlett is a 40 year veteran in enterprise IT, working with companies large and small across many industries. He endeavors to inform buyers in a no-nonsense manner and spares no vendor that comes under his microscope.

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163 comments
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  • Nitpicking?

    These bullet points sound like pc's I've had to deal with at work. Also, I've come to the conclusion that some people just are a magnet for technical troubles.
    IMHO
    systemx
    • RE: Apple is not enterprise class

      @systemx <br><br>I'm fairly sure he's lying. I know because I've read over and over at ZDNet from users who tell me how Apple uses better parts in their systems than all those PC folks do. For him to have that many problems would mean, somebody ain't tellin' the truth.

      note: a hint of sarcasm was thrown into this post (for those who didn't catch it)
      Badgered
      • Imagine all those stories we could have had in the past

        Where a couple of posts on websites was enough to right off a platform. <br><br>Clearly the author hasn't received the memo. Enterprise IT in the mobile and desktop is dead. The MCSEs have failed to deliver for so long they're simply ignored. We started seeing it with the iPhone where management simply started buying them for themselves sidelining IT, then it exploded with MacBooks and iPads. Now they have no say.
        Richard Flude
      • RE: Apple is not enterprise class

        @Badgered - who's lying?
        dahowlett
      • Apple Certification

        @Richard Flude<br>Why be an MCSE when you can be an Apple Registered System Engineer...?

        I think the program in the US is Apple System Specialist.
        dazzlingd
      • dazzlingd: oh that was very nicely done

        And it describes Richard so well. I think his wife left him for an MCSE. That is the only thing that explains his strange fascination with it.
        toddybottom
      • RE: Apple is not enterprise class

        @Badgered OEM parts = the cheapest most cost effective junk they can shoehorn into a case. I'd rather spend the extra cash on high end end user components and build my own PC than trust any of the OEM companies out there today. It's not just Apple using junk hardware it's everyone.
        Str0b0
      • RE: Apple is not enterprise class

        @Badgered <br>The apple computers are builds in China.Not sure about quality ??<br><br>Beside that, most part they use are the same parts any normal PC use. Is the Intel processors better on Apple, jsut because its apple ??? not sure
        SylvainT
      • RE: Apple is not enterprise class

        @Badgered - you say "...who tell me how Apple uses better parts in their systems than all those PC folks do".

        I'm not sure if you really believe that. Those components are the same, coming from the same factories - is nothing 'Mac' on them. Depend on PC user choice - he can have a low cost computer or a high end one. I always choose piece by piece my hardware. I do that for more than 10 years. I tell you for sure for 3000 $ on custom PC I have more than a 3000 $ Mac.

        The other problem - I don't use crap Windows. I use Ubuntu Linux - for digital artwork and printing, CAD and animations. Nuke, Houdini even Shake have Linux binaries. I can run Adobe Photoshop CS 5 and Dreamweaver under Wine without problems (true it's a bit of manual setup for that ). At the end of the day nothing can beat a custom PC with a Linux inside talking about hardware stability. Point.
        SorinN
      • RE: Apple is not enterprise class

        @Badgered: I'm not sure what he's on about at all. What's the clearly poorly configured SOHO setup above got to do with enterprise IT?

        I (& thousands like me) also have multiple Apple devices on a WiFi network in daily use with no issues. Maybe he should try adding the DNS servers to the Advanced area of Network Prefs.
        As for waiting for H.264 encodes maybe he shouldn't be so quick to write off FCPX, it's OpenCL support allows a top-spec sub $3K i7 iMac to outperform a MacPro. See http://www.barefeats.com/fcpx01.html
        McDaveH
    • RE: Apple is not enterprise class

      @systemx
      Agreed. but the thing is that PC problems are more easily remedied because you can get spare parts for the PC. For the most part, I think persistent Mac problems might not as easily be solved, so more is at stake
      regsrini
      • RE: Apple is not enterprise class

        @regsrini - it is possible to do your own repairs on Mac but parts are not easy to acquire. Took me a good half hour to find the right part and then the right reseller.
        dahowlett
    • RE: Apple is not enterprise class

      @systemx - did you red AND understand what I said? I talked about the compute devices as problematic. Check out the forums - they're littered with issues. But that's not the point. Apple is NOT solving long run problems.
      dahowlett
      • RE: Apple is not enterprise class

        @dahowlett You mean like Microsoft who has issues that have been open for years and not fixed.
        mrlinux
      • RE: Apple is not enterprise class

        @dahowlett Do you even realize that you could easily swap in the name of ANY computer manufacturer, say "Sony," for any instance where you wrote "Apple," and the article would STILL be true?

        Also, you rely every so heavily on Internet forums full of people posting about problems, as proof or evidence for your deductions. Well, there isn't an EQUAL number of forums full of people with Windows problems... No, there are MUCH, MUCH MORE!

        I sympathize with you, and take every word you say seriously. But your experience is NOT the norm. Also, the fact that Apple's support has, for many years, consistently ranked #1 in customer satisfaction would lead anyone to believe that your experience is far, far from average.

        I have a mixed-platform home that includes an i7 iMac 27", two Mac Minis, a MacBook Pro, and two AppleTVs. Everything works EXACTLY as it should. All are on wifi, except one of the minis is on Ethernet. Also, both minis do double duty running Windows 7 for Windows Media Center and DVR recording. Each machine goes to sleep pretty quickly, but when I try to access data from a sleeping machine, it wakes up instantly because of the wifi request, and serves the appropriate data or media files to whatever machine I'm sitting in front of. I NEVER got that to work correctly in Windows when I was an all-"PC" household only two years ago.

        Also, I run a small media production company as well as forensic audio. I perform the heavy-lifting for that job (encoding video as you mentioned) using the i7 iMac 27" (8GB) and it speeds along more quickly than any machine I've ever owned.

        Your gripe with the iPad is understood, but is not entirely accurate. I've recorded several voice-over projects this month in the field, using my iPad and GarageBand. I've also produced two quality song demos using just the iPad and a Blue Snowball microphone, and a full-size midi controller keyboard plugged into the USB-adapter jack. And for podcast work, iMovie does a great job on the iPad and exports easily as well.

        I'm not saying your experience is invalid, nor am I asking you to change your mind. But you MUST realize that your comments do not align with the TRUTH for the vast majority of users out there. And I know you are inclined to turn to your forums of complaints for validation, but there is as much and MORE of the same issues for other vendors.

        Considering that Macintosh sales are growing at a rate FIVE TIMES that of other ("PC") platforms, do you think Mac could possibly be as bad as you say, yet still expand at this rate WHILE still continuing to have such high customer satisfaction ratings???
        lelandhendrix@...
      • RE: Apple is not enterprise class

        @lelandhendrix

        You seem to be conflating consumer and enterprise. This blog post is about whether Apple is enterprise class, not whether consumers like their Apple or not.

        For comparison though, Vista is running on more machines than Apple has ever sold. If we mix sales with satisfaction, Vista is a success and OS X is an abject failure.

        That's why satisfaction isn't a good indicator of fit to purpose.
        rtk
    • I've never seen these Macbook Problems

      @systemx and we have two about, both connecting by AirPort. I have, however, had problems with every other computer and phone about the house, including the Windows box connected by direct Ethernet.

      A lot of anecdotal "my computer doesn't work" dressed up as an article about Enterprise fitness (not that Apple cares - it doesn't target the enterprise.)
      Mac_PC_FenceSitter
  • Pardon me but your point of view and experiences seem

    almost unique. Sorry about your frustration with Apple products but millions upon millions of enterprise Apple customers are not feeling your pain.
    kenosha77a
    • RE: Apple is not enterprise class

      @kenosha7777 - right...what about those who never complain or write forum posts, or who queue up day after day at the Genius Bar?
      dahowlett
      • RE: Apple is not enterprise class

        @dahowlett

        He's just a dillusional fanboy.. I mean arent there billions of PC's out there using Windows? Yet i havent seen a billion people at PC world, therefore Microsoft customers "are not feeling the pain"
        daniejam10