Apple needs a window into the enterprise

Apple has finished its move to Intel with two servers and a modest fanfare. That's not enterprising enough
Written by Leader , Contributor
Apple events can be wild rides at the fair: yesterday's WWDC '06 keynote was as dull as a departmental picnic. The lead item was backup software. It went downhill from there. Minor OS tweaks due for 2007 set the crowd snoozing; a dual-chip, dual-core Xeon server much the same as everyone else's dual-chip, dual-core Xeon server left them slipping into a coma.

Not quite. Apple fans would cheer Steve Jobs if he announced that the next iPod used compact cassettes. But this was the lowest-key Apple event for a long time. Exactly what was needed.

Despite the halo effect, despite selling more computers now than ever, Apple is in danger of being seen as a company that makes audio toys and, oh yeah, those quirky laptops bought by geeks who can't play games. It's certainly not seen as a company capable of doing much good in a corporate environment, a sector it's pretty much ceded by default to the men in suits.

On those grounds, it's good to see an event which underlines the fact that Apple still sells servers. One that demonstrates the company's exceptional skill in changing architectures while still building market share is equally welcome. Both these things grant the company kudosm, which it could spend on being heard at enterprise level.

It's still not serious about that. Designing a 19-inch rack-mounted server that looks like a mid-1990s audio component is one thing: not selling it with Windows or Linux options is just plain perverse. Apple wouldn't ship one less copy of OS X if it did that: on the other hand, it might sell a lot more servers. Instead, it values purity over profit.

That's a mistake. Pretty twinkling lights and snugly sliding disk drives are not enough to plant orchards in the server farm, not if they come at the cost of another operating system to support.

Apple is a hardware company that sells a lot of single-user computers because it has software that individuals prefer. The same dynamic does not apply at the back end; neither does the overriding importance of the purchase price. Saying that a server is a thousand dollars less than the equivalent Dell, even if true, misses the point if it's going to cost many times that in extra time and training.

There's a place for Apple in the enterprise, if it wants it. On current evidence, it's not clear that it does.

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