Apple the 'one trick pony' of the desktop world

That's great, but don't you do anything else...
Written by silicon.com staff, Contributor

That's great, but don't you do anything else...

As any jobbing soap star with aspirations of broadening his or her range will tell you, being typecast is a terrible thing. Suddenly the thing that made you successful - the loveable rogue, the ballsy matriarch - becomes a millstone around your neck. In the twinkling of an eye you're back on the Square, Close or Street - ego battered and bruised. As it is with soap opera actors, so it is with Apple. So successful has the company been in branding itself as the choice of designers, educationalists and free-thinkers everywhere that attempts to broaden its own range have always ended in failure. That's why its latest assault on the business market - with the launch of OS X 10.2 - must be greeted with caution. "We want to fit into the enterprise infrastructure," Apple's Tom Goguen said on Friday, more in hope than expectation one feels. Despite the scepticism, there are a number of trends currently working in Apple's favour. Firstly, there's the growing cost of client computing. According to Gartner, Microsoft's Licensing 6 programme - so reviled by UK IT directors when it was mooted last summer (see: http://www.silicon.com/a47628) - will raise upgrade fees anywhere from 33 per cent to 107 per cent. And if the upgrades don't get you .Net just might. A web services strategy will invariably mean more client access licences. In a novel twist, Apple can pitch itself as the low-cost alternative. Secondly, the rise and rise of Linux shows IT departments are hungry for an alternative to Windows. When the like of Air New Zealand ditch Microsoft in favour of an alternative enterprise OS supplier, Apple is entitled to ask: "Why not us?" Thirdly, if application support drives operating system sales then Apple is in an ideal position to strengthen its hand. Despite contradictory statements coming out of Sun, StarOffice for OS X makes perfect sense. Sun needs cross-platform credentials, Apple needs apps. And this is to say nothing of personal animosity that would likely drive Scott McNealy to get in to bed with Microsoft's rival. Ditto Oracle's Larry Ellison. Ditto IBM's Sam Palmisano. In the world of IT realpolitik, my enemy's enemy is my friend. So far so good but the ultimate decision - and the fate of Apple's latest business push - rests with the end user. And despite the relative success of Linux, IT directors remain a conservative breed. It's taken the Linux community half a decade and more of non-stop campaigning to make a dent in Microsoft's PC server hegemony. It will need equal determination from Apple if OS X is finally going to get Macs into the server room.
Editorial standards