Apple is not enterprise class

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

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.