Apple and the enterprise: the great 'what if'

Could Apple make a go of its App Store in enterprise settings? A nice idea, but...

ZDNet colleague Jason Perlow just raised a great "what-if" question in a recent post: What if Apple started to go after the enterprise in a big way?

Consider the scenario Jason envisions:

"What if… and this is a big if… Apple could apply the same cloud-based, one-click app install technology they have with the App Store on iOS and the Mac and apply it to enterprise operating systems? Specifically, make OS X Server a real enterprise OS, instead of the half-baked attempt they made with their aborted XServes and finally relegating it to toy servers using Mac Minis?"

We already discussed here how Steve Jobs and company raised the possibilities of service oriented architecture to a whole new level of thinking with the App Store concept. And we're seeing enterprise app stores becoming a reality. Imagine what service orientation and private cloud in enterprises would look like once they got the Apple treatment, as Jason describes it:

"What I envision from the end-user or IT perspective is a server management console that could be controlled from an iPad, an iPhone, a Mac, or even the web, where you point and click on an enterprise software package in this theoretical Enterprise App Store and any 'extras' such as pre-rolled CMS or CRM systems and viola, it just works. The Server management console would keep track of all your Mac servers in your enterprise, as well as all your entitlements and the apps and software bundles installed on them. The supporting infrastructure could be partner-hosted or hosted in your own datacenter, but it would make initial app provisioning so easy that even your ten year old could do it."

Of course, as Jason points out, the Apple approach concentrates on Apple-based systems, and to go any further, such an adventure would require cooperation from and work with the established enterprise players -- IBM, Oracle, and HP, not to mention Microsoft, SAP, Cisco and Intel. Work and sweat equity has been going on for years to make solutions from all these players more interoperable. Apple built its model on a proprietary hardware-software stack, and any attempts by Apple to move into the data center space would get ugly.

Still, we can see Apple's footprint all over the enterprise, so it's always interesting to ask: 'what if?"

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