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  • Another Look at Apple’s Stealth Fighters

    June 28th, 2007

    In all the times I’ve commented about Apple’s lack of penetration into the core of the business market, I’ve remarked about the apparent lack of a large, dedicated sales staff calling regularly on such companies and the unavailability of specialty models that would fit certain niches. This would surely include that middle-of-the road expandable Mac with the guts of the iMac, a pair of internal expansion ports, and no display.

    However, it’s all too clear that Apple has other ideas, and mine clearly can’t and probably won’t influence their vision. But that doesn’t mean the Mac and the iPhone are poor choices for your business. It just means that Apple is going after the enterprise from the back door.

    Certainly, there is the corporate art department, where the majority of business Macs see service. Even where management and IT people have banned Macs from the rest of the company, graphic designers and video editors clearly have conveyed their views that most will not accept a PC box, even a high-end one, when a Mac Pro can be had.

    Apple certainly knows this, which is why you see a slew of professional multimedia applications that receive regular and major upgrades. As far as graphics are concerned, Adobe has been given a mostly free ride, except for Aperture. Sure, Apple did kind of force Adobe to remove its Premiere video editing software from the Mac market, but that’s now returning; well, at least for Intel-based Macs.

    But that’s not the only way Apple is quietly improving its business presence.

    Consider college students, many of whom have acquired MacBooks and MacBook Pros. In a few years, they will enter the working world. Sure, if they take a job at an existing company, the odds are that they will have to work on the office PC. But more and more businesses are allowing their employees to use note-books, either the ones bought for them, and their own, and here’s where Apple is gaining big time. Roughly two-thirds of all Macs sold these days are note-books, and Apple now owns over 14% of the retail note-book market in the U.S. That would have been unheard of just a few months ago.

    Another road to the business world is the fact that more and more technology experts, particularly the ones quoted in various tech publications, have engaged in very public discussions of their attempts to get all of their work done on a Mac. In most cases, they have succeeded admirably, although they sometimes need to resort to Windows courtesy of Boot Camp or Parallels Desktop.

    IT people who may have ignored Macs can be heavily influenced by stories of that nature. And when the boss brings in a new Mac for himself or herself, it’s very hard for anyone in the systems administration area to say they can’t do that.

    Now take a look at the iPhone, which is being touted by the early reviewers as perhaps the ultimate consumer-oriented smart phone. Why consumers? Well, certainly the music player component and the fancy graphical tricks are responsible. Some of the more critical tech pundits also complain that the iPhone’s email software can’t access an Exchange server, but I gather all that’s required is a minor setting to allow IMAP connections. That’s it. Many of the other alleged shortcomings are software related and can be addressed in a downloadable update.

    Let’s not forget that the iPhone is strictly a version 1.0 product. In fact, Apple is not even booking all of its income from the sale of its flashy wireless phone at the initial sale, but over a longer period. That’s because the iPhone can and will be enhanced by software over time. Steve Jobs has said as much, although you won’t know what sort of improvements will come until they are at or near release. In fact, in a recent interview, Jobs made these comments about enhnced corporate email support: “You’ll be hearing more about this in the coming weeks. We have some pilots going with companies with names you’ll recognize. This won’t be a big issue.”

    Indeed, even though AT&T has restricted the iPhone to its consumer calling plans, that doesn’t mean that business users won’t buy them. They’ll just put them on their personal plans for the time being. Once the initial demand dies down, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the iPhone supported on AT&T’s enterprise calling programs, assuming there is sufficient demand for it, and I’m sure there will be.

    So, yes, you can state fairly that Apple isn’t making a direct push into the business marketplace. But as more and more iPhones and Macs are bought by the people who run those companies — or begin to work for them — you can bet that things will change.

    No, I don’t expect to see it happen overnight. You will not wake up one day, walk into your nearest bank or hospital and see rows and rows of Macs adorning the desks of tellers, receptionists and record clerks. But the winds of change are in the air, and things can move quite rapidly if the positive trends continue unabated.

    And one more thing, I do not regard the appearance of that Mac guy himself, Justin Long, as co-star of the new Bruce Willis “Die Hard” flick as anything more than an acting gig, even though Long does play a computer nerd. Maybe it’s just type casting.



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