Apple in the enterprise: The road forward

Apple in the enterprise: The road forward

Summary: Now that the final page in the Steve Jobs chapter of Apple, Inc. has turned, will the company finally embrace the enterprise?


So, Apple.

Apple, Apple, Apple, Apple.

What's next?

The company has lost its iconic and arguably its spiritual leader. Tim Cook, supply chain savant and business process genius is now CEO.

Business as usual? Make tons of money with great consumer products? Keep crankin' out the Macs, iPhones and iPads? Start doing some heavy consumer cloud biz? Definitely.

But something's been bothering me. Like an itch I can't scratch. Like I can see something in the corner of my eye, an alternate universe that could have been. Potential unrealized.

Heck, it's been bothering me for over three years, since I joined ZDNet. Pre-Tech Broiler even.

A lot has happened with Apple in the three and a half years I wrote that piece. Some things have changed. Some things I was dead wrong about. Unfortunately, a lot of things have stayed the same.

This was my original argument in a nutshell:

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.

Let's just set aside for the moment that I had absolutely no way to predict that the iPhone and iOS and the App Store would go gangbusters and Apple would make a gazillion dollars focusing on those technologies like a million petawatt Death Star laser pointed at Planet Waterloo and Planet Redmond.

I was wrong about the impact of iOS SDK. They made craploads of money in consumer and in the process launched a massive software ecosystem with the App Store. And the Mac has really started to gain some serious traction in some very interesting niche areas.

Heck, half the researchers at IBM I've met use Macs. Even most Open Source software developers I know love the thing.

Apple's stockholders are ecstatic. In the three and a half years I wrote that piece, the company has effectively perfected silicon alchemy.

Ok? Have we sufficiently acknowledged the stratospheric success of iOS and the Mac in the last three years? Now let's move on.

Let's talk about what Apple did not do effectively in the last three and a half years. For the most part, my argument and most of the points in my original article stand. While Apple has been very effective in the consumer space, they've made almost zero impact in the enterprise. Zero. Nada. Nothing. Not a blip.

Now, one could simply point to the value of Apple's stock and 50 billion+ dollars in cash and say "Perlow, you idiot, Apple doesn't need to be an enterprise company."

Okay, maybe Apple doesn't need to make enterprise hardware. I think we can all agree that the XServe and the enterprise storage for those boxes were total flops. Nobody except for the weirdest boutique IT shops wanted to use them. And thus Apple killed those products off for good reason.

In the same token, Mac OS X Server is not in any way to be considered an enterprise-class server OS, although it is a fine small business and workgroup server OS.

I own a Mac OS X Mini server. Love it to death. But I'm never gonna suggest you run a huge departmental file server with 1000 users on it. It's not designed for that.

So then what's left for Apple in the enterprise, if they don't have enterprise hardware and an enterprise-class server OS?

Well, there's actually an awful lot left in there. Let's Think Different, people.

Let's start with decision maker #1 at Apple. Tim Cook.

Tim Cook has all the trappings of an Apple executive. He does the dark shirt and jeans thing real well. But underneath that casual exterior lies the DNA of someone that unlike Steve Jobs, has a very good understanding of not only how to run an enterprise, but he also understands enterprise products and how to sell and distribute them.

You see, Tim Cook is an ex-IBMer and spent twelve years there as head of fulfillment of the company's PC business, which it eventually sold to Lenovo.

As I say of many folks who leave the company and go on to do other things -- you can take the man out of IBM, but you can't take the IBM out of the man. Once an IBMer, always an IBMer.

When you deal with reseller channels and fulfillment and distribution, one of the things that is extremely important is how you deal with your partners.

Now in Cook's case that has a lot to do with reseller partners and integrators. As well as companies that write software and bundle your products as solutions.

Right now, iOS and the Mac are very much consumer devices. Sure, you got the whole content creation niche with the Mac going on, but that's not really the bulk of the Mac business. iOS you have a few token vertical market apps, such as in point of sale.

But compared to the amount of consumery, game type stuff in the App Store, the enterprise apps for iOS and also the Mac just do not exist.

So Apple, do you really, really want to continue to cede this territory to Microsoft? Especially when they've for all practical purposes have thrown their existing legacy software development under the bus? Do they really want to miss another huge opportunity with such a massive and uncertain paradigm shift occurring at their largest competitor?

And do they really want someone like Microsoft or even Google to start courting the IBMs and the SAPs? HP? Or

Okay, I don't see Larry Page courting Larry Ellison for Oracle to start writing Android apps unless the companies pull off a Begin/Sadat, but you get the picture.

Plenty of executives carry iPhones and iPads. Plenty use Macs. But are they really integrated with their line of business applications? Sure, there's the regular productivity and messaging kind of stuff. But that's not really what I'm taking about here.

Let's talk about stuff like business analytics. Reporting systems. Data visualization. The holy grail that we like to call the "360 degree view of the enterprise."

Can we reallly truly say we can do that with an iPad or an iPhone today? Well, no. Sure, I've seen a couple of cute demos here and there, but nothing I would take seriously.

Frankly, I saw RIM starting to do that kind of stuff with the PlayBook and QNX at some of their developer conferences, but the platform really has no chance in hell of gaining any traction at this point. It would take divine intervention to fix that mess.

RIM has hired a new developer program lead -- Alec Saunders, who hails formerly from Microsoft. I think he's a smart guy, and maybe he can pull a rabbit out of a hat, but I want to see actions, not just words from Waterloo.

HP was starting to rattle some sabers along those lines about a year ago with WebOS, but our buddy Leo Apocalypse augured in on those plans for the TouchPad pretty good.

So that leaves Apple. And Tim Cook. You know how Steve Ballmer's mantra is Developers, Developers, Developers, Developers? Cook's should be Partners, Partners, Partners, Partners when it comes to iOS enterprise software.

And Mac in the enterprise?

I think Apple should concentrate on its strengths when it comes to the Mac. The desktop. But not in the way you think.

Sure, plenty of execs are going to walk around with MacBook Airs. The IT guys and software developers hacking their Linux systems are going to continue to tote their MacBook Pros.

But what about everyone else? If Microsoft has its wish, everyone will be using Windows 8. And Metro apps.

One key area of Windows 8 that seems to be largely ignored -- at least for the time being -- is VDI, or Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. But its fingerprints are all over Windows 8 Server with the RemoteFX technologies.

I don't know about you guys, but I think there's going to be a ton of resistance to using Windows 8's new UI in the enterprise. Heck, I think it might be downright hostile until there's a proven need and there's enough Metro apps to go around.

It sounds crazy, but if you think about it, Mac OS X is far more "Windows-Like" than Windows 8's Metro is. By virtue of how alien it feels to most of us technorati, I could see a lot of consumers migrating from Windows to Mac.

If you consider that Microsoft over its 30+ year history was able to penetrate the consumer space via the enterprise, via "trickle down", and you watch how Apple is making inroads into the enterprise with consumer stuff like the iPad, it's not unreasonable to think that something like the Mac could indeed "trickle up."

What if Apple partnered with a company like VMWare or Red Hat to provide OS X VDI to the enterprise and to vertical markets? Using Thin Cilents? Or maybe go out and buy an existing Mac virtualization player like Parallels and finally allow OS X to run on enterprise-class x86 hardware?

Now that would be Thinking Different. Big Time.

Partners, Partners, Partners, Partners.

Steve Jobs would have recoiled in terror at the thought of doing anything like that. But Tim Cook is not Steve Jobs.

Now that Steve Jobs has conquered the consumer market, should Tim Cook's mission be to bring IOS and Mac into the enterprise? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Disclaimer: My Full-Time Employer is IBM. I write as a freelancer for ZDNet. The postings and opinions on this blog are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Topic: Apple


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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  • We haven't seen anything yet

    Apple has more presence in the enterprise than most people realize. The trend of consumerization is moving towards higher ticket items. IT simply can't keep Apple out. People love Apple products. We are still people when we're at work.

    At a certain point enough people had experienced the iPhone, and shared their thoughts on that quality of experience with enough other people, that the device became an unstoppable force. Now iPads, MacBook Airs, and MacBook Pros are walking in the door as well.

    Once someone moves to OS X, using Windows is like going to the dentist. Similar to trying to go back to a Blackberry after moving to an iPhone.

    For all the success Apple has had these past several years, we haven't seen anything yet.
    • RE: Apple in the enterprise: The road forward


      "Apple has more presence in the enterprise than most people realize."

      I've heard this before. Care to provide examples? Just curious.
      • RE: Apple in the enterprise: The road forward

        Here's one example...

        Three Ways Apple is Influencing Enterprise Software Development (Oct 7)

        Plenty more here...
      • RE: Apple in the enterprise: The road forward

        @smulji All the media corp i know off currently have between 10 to 90% MAC presence. Some have switched entirely to MAC recently. There's definitely a stronger presence in that industry.

        I'm not convinced it's penetrating with any significant strength in the industry at large (mostly due to cost I suspect) but for those who BTOD to work (ex: Consultant) there is a stronger presence (still the exception but more common then b4).

        On a more personal level, i see many of my techno friend making the switch. I myself have started the motion. I now have a Mac Mini at home and all my evergreening will be with MAC although I will keep at least one PC. If for nothing else than gaming ;-).

        The ease of integration between all those device is what is driving me and my friends. It's so much easier for the wife and kids. Sure I can do all that with Windows or *nix but it gets so complicated sometimes. I don't have time for complicated.
      • RE: Apple in the enterprise: The road forward

        In terms of desktops in the workplace, Macs have no chance of usurping the enterprise market. However, as more & more desktops are discarded for laptops, both at home and at work, newer mobile platforms (iOS, Android, Windows Mango, & soon Windows 8) will gradually gain more traction with business ventures small and large. Smartphones, tablets and ultra-thin laptops (similar to MacBook Air) have no doubt made inroads and all indications point to a changing (i.e. more mobile) enterprise landscape, but Windows & Blackberry still have the advantage... at least for the foreseeable future.
    • RE: Apple in the enterprise: The road forward


      "Once someone moves to OS X, using Windows is like going to the dentist. Similar to trying to go back to a Blackberry after moving to an iPhone. "

      Not really. There is really no comparing the UIs of a Blackberry with iPhone. However, using Windows is not that different than OSX. It all boils down to personal preference. I've used both and don't find that either has a distinct advantage from a usability standpoint.

      Most large companies require standard images for desktops. This means it's usually all one type of OS. It makes support less costly. As long as Apple continues to require that OSX run on Apple hardware, most companies will stay away from it on the desktop. What IT manager wants hardware lock-in? On the server side, you can't run lion on a VM, so virtualization is off the table. Apple will have to change a few things to compete in the enterprise.
      • RE: Apple in the enterprise: The road forward

        @bmonsterman As someone who works in corporate IT, I would say that you hit the issue perfectly. The choice of Windows over Mac and Linux on the desktop is all about total cost of ownership and security. It has nothing to do with which is easier to use or nicer.

        I don't care if you have a Mac or a PC, anyone who has needed to keep one system up to date and "happy" can imagine the headache of managing 1000's bought over a period of time. If Apple wants to be a serious player in the enterprise, they need to support easily imaging systems, remote diagnostics and all the tools that make great sense in the enterprise and less sense for consumers.

        The reality of the situation is that making enterprise users happy may make it difficult for MS to please consumers with ease of setup and use and the strong focus on the consumer experience may make it difficult for Apple in the enterprise.

        The best answer for buyers of computers might just be the status quo.
      • RE: Apple in the enterprise: The road forward

        @bmonsterman Erm *cough* you CAN run Lion on a VM *cough*

        I do agree with the whole image statement; now if Apple were to provide Virtualization Licences for OS X Lion/Lion Server on Blade Servers (regardless of the hardware vendor or simply make Apple-Specific ones) then more companies would adopt Apple OS's quicker and right across the board.

        The thing is, like that gentleman said earlier, people love Apple products and we're people first, employees second so you WILL see Apple product make more and more in roads into the Enterprise.

        We have many Apple systems and servers in my organisation including iPad2's (although not yet officially supported)

        Apple can do it if they really want to. They (R.I.P. Steve Jobs) have faced far harder obstacles before now and overcome them.

        I'd personally prefer a new Mac Book Air with backlit keyboard any day over a clunky desktop.

        A few points to correct:

        I use Windows 7 64-bit, have used Windows 8 and own a MAC (OS X Lion Server) no problems switching back and forth between either..

        Windows 8 from a development perspective is not solely limited to just running Metro apps (there are other Legacy interfaces still in there).

        It remains to be seen what Apple does next but I do believe Apple TV (actual Apple Manufactured Smart TVs) is next, followed by re-inventing cinema, then the Enterprise. (By then most people will be using a tablet instead of a desktop PC/Laptop/Netbook anyway! ;D
      • While I prefer OS X

        @bmonsterman While I prefer OS X, I don't think Windows 7 is really all that different, nor really any more unpleasant to use. I think the Explorer has a slight edge on the Finder, whereas OS X's Spotlight (Search) is better than Win7's. Its all a question of some pretty slight trade-offs.

        Now... try hooking up a slide projector, or putting hardware into the USB slot. That's a much more unpleasant experience on Windows, usually.

        As to companies having a single image, yes, IT groups usually like that. But that's where Consumerization comes into play - when key executives want to use a Macbook or an iPad, or important technical work has to be done that involves these platforms (apps for app stores, etc), then that pretty much forces the issue, no matter what IT may want, unfortunately.

        And don't forget that the IT folks themselves may have iPhones or iPads. IT Macphobia, from what I've seen, just does not extend to these devices.
      • RE: Apple in the enterprise: The road forward

        @bmonsterman "There is really no comparing the UIs of a Blackberry with iPhone. However, using Windows is not that different than OSX." This is a ludicrous fallacy. Have you even used Mac OS X? I rather doubt it.

        Whenever I use a Windows machine I am constantly logging in my head the endless list on non intuitive ways tasks have to be carried out. Endless! Having said that, everything is so logical on a Mac, I've seen kids as young as four figure it out in minutes. The difference between the two is off the scale.

        And what does: "Most large companies require standard images for desktops." mean? "standard images for desktops"??

        So, from a "user standpoint" one most definitely does have an advantage, as does the company enlightened enough to go 100% Mac. Productivity and worker satisfaction goes off the scale when they use Macs. But that's just the beginning of the story. TCO is lower due to unit reliability and sustainability, as is peace of mind due to vastly lower security vulnerability, which is also a huge cost saving. To be perfectly frank, it's an absolute no-brainer.
        Graham Ellison
      • RE: Apple in the enterprise: The road forward

        @crissgoodlookingguy,<br>"Erm *cough* you CAN run Lion on a VM *cough*"<br><br>If you read the Mac OS X EULA, you would learn that Apple won't allow you to install Mac OS X on non Apple hardware. So the only option you have is the Mac Pro Server, an option which don't include redundant power supplies or hot pluggable hard drives. And there are no high performance SAS drives available from Apple. So are you saying that I should run Mac OS X Server on this kind of hardware for my critical enterprise environment? Maybe that's the reason Apple decided to go with HP for the servers of their datacenters. <br><a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"></a><br><br>"I do agree with the whole image statement; now if Apple were to provide Virtualization Licences for OS X Lion/Lion Server on Blade Servers (regardless of the hardware vendor or simply make Apple-Specific ones) then more companies would adopt Apple OS's quicker and right across the board."<br><br>What Apple offering would help me setup a private cloud with Mac OS X? What Apple offering will cover virtualization or enterprise databases? MS and Redhat are miles ahead of Apple in server/cloud offerings, don't you think?
      • RE: Apple in the enterprise: The road forward

        @sbf95070 Do you know what sort of person votes for or advocates sticking with "the status quo" in ANY given situation, but especially the enterprise? No, they're not Luddites, that would involve action. To be so happy with the way things are, particularly in the world of enterprise computing, you have to be advocating two things: <br><br>1. Very unhealthy addiction/dependency<br>2. Commercial suicide<br><br>Why? Because Microsoft's business model, such as it is, would not look out of place in the Columbian nose candy business. It's destructive and divisive. It's also doomed to fail, not because of some official policing policy [we've long ago worked out that can't and won't work], but because users have grown up, grown younger, moved on and got wise. <br><br>We no longer all go out and buy what we know - because it's what we use at work - what we got trained on. TRAINED ON! Can you imagine that? I never had a moment's training on a Mac. I didn't need it. No-one needs it. An iPad is 100% idiot proof.<br><br>If you stick with the status quo, the world WILL turn, the world WILL move on... and you'll be left behind wondering what happened. But you won't be alone. You'll have Ballmer & co for company, as well as those elements of the music industry, the publishing industry etc who thought, despite ALL the historical evidence to the contrary, that things in their sectors would stay the same! They didn't. They won't. The incumbents and their laggardly followers are always the last to work out that their world is already dead.
        Graham Ellison
      • RE: Apple in the enterprise: The road forward

        @bmonsterman Every corporation I've worked was LOCKED IN to a contract to only buy hardware from one vendor. All desktop were one company--not Microsoft...HP, Compaq, Dell, IBM. Servers were also locked down to a single provider. So corporate IT already does what you see is so grievous to using Apple as a desktop.

        I've never worked for a large company where I had any choice of vendor for servers. I gave specs and they came back with a server from the pre-approved vendor. Similar restrictions in OS choices. Linux not allowed, only Solaris.
    • Dental Hygene

      @PatKelly I'm a LOOOOOOOOOOOONG-time Apple Fanboi, but to be fair, After Snow Leopard, using Lion is like going to the dentist, too. It is not as bad as Vista was on Windoze, but I am not amused by it.
      • RE: Apple in the enterprise: The road forward

        @m0o0o0o0o Really? I've switch from Windows 7 to Lion and while the learning curve was a little frustrating at first, with the help of my friendly 'magic mouse' i'm finding that I miss my Lion when I have to go back to my PC laptop. Can't wait to replace that one.

        The only thing I miss when i'm on Mac is Visio. Omnigraffe just is not quite up to the same experience. Other than that it's been a dream. Most application seem so much more integrated than with Windows and the integration with the family's various Pod, Phone and Pad and TV device makes-it all the more fun.

        The only thing my PC is used for now is gaming. Pretty much everything thing else gets done on the Mac. I'm not saying it's a panacea but for what I need to do, it's been a breeze and I only wish i'd have done that move years ago.
    • RE: Apple in the enterprise: The road forward

      @PatKelly <br>I not only believe OS X offers a better experience than Windows, but I also feel that iOS is much more intuitive than Windows, and it's iPad platform has taken me away from my Windows laptop for everything but just a few intensive tasks.<br><br>And to think... some people are actually wanting to step back in time and have Windows dominate the emerging tablet market! <br><br>It's time to put Windows out to pasture where it belongs.
    • Moving to OS X...

      "Once someone moves to OS X, using Windows is like going to the dentist. Similar to trying to go back to a Blackberry after moving to an iPhone. "

      I couldn't disagree more. I own and use both systems. The only time OS X is arguably better is when you only work with one application at a time. The vast majority of the time I have at least 5-7 applications open across two large displays. In this usage scenario, I personally find Windows 7 to be far more intuitive and easy to use. Each application is self-contained like a sheet of paper on a desktop. I don't have to look outside of the application window to find application functions. When I'm working on an application on my second display, I don't have to move back to the primary display to access the menus. This antique OS X design paradigm was fine years ago when OS X was trying to appeal to previous Mac users and everyone still used a single small display, but the UI on OS X has remained relatively unchanged (except pretty visuals) for too long. It's time for a complete re-think and they could learn a LOT from Windows 7.

      Regarding Apple in the enterprise - Apple doesn't care about the enterprise. They have made many moves over the years which have made this quite apparent. They make barrels of cash from consumers and are content to continue getting rich by addressing this core market. The only concession they make to enterprise-centric thinking is that they sometimes adjust their consumer products to be more enterprise-friendly so that their consumer-customers can take their products to work.

      Look at it another way. Enterprise customers are cheap. They are demanding. They want tons of advanced functionality built into devices they buy. Their upgrade cycles are glacial requiring extensive research and justification for purchases, so repeat sales take forever. They want advanced notice of new technologies years in advance. All of this goes completely against Apple's way of doing business. Consumers, on the other hand, buy on a whim, upgrade often, and love pleasant surprises. It's a perfect fit.
    • Enterprise adoption? Maybe but its a very long road.

      @PatKelly "Apple has more presence in the enterprise than most people realize."

      Yes, people in the enterprize world do use Macs and many use iPhones. I worked for a company with over 80,000 employees. Only company owned devives are allowed on company networks. They most support IE (I know, I know! They did allow Forfox though.) and many applications are only available for IE. So much would have to chnage to get Macs usable on company networks.

      Is the above company unusual? Not at all. Apple has a very very long way to go to get into the enterprise.
      • Very true...

        Single hardware source
        Support of legacy custom programs

        Long way
      • RE: Apple in the enterprise: The road forward

        @kdjkdj@... Is that something to celebrate? Is it something to accept as if it's bound to stay the same? Is any of the old stuff that we've currently got in the enterprise really desirable? I would argue very strongly that it is not. I love change. It's disruptive.

        As we wallow in the self-imposed soporific slumber of a long recession that's very likely to do a very undignified double dip on us, I say let's take the opportunity to look at all the things about the 20th century that were wrong, and do things differently from now on.

        And if we think that's a risky strategy, look at it as brave. And as we make our decision to stick with the same tired old solution, or go with the new, let's ask a macabre but very relevant and topical question: If Bill Gates had just died, how would have mourned?

        In 2005, Steve Jobs addressed Stanford University Commencement ceremony with these words:

        "And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

        Who, after hearing or reading those words would say that the journey to something better wasn't worth it?
        Graham Ellison