Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of welcoming Alykhan Jetha, CEO of Marketcircle, Inc., on a recent episode of the tech show. As someone who develops software for small businesses, AJ said that Apple shouldn’t really waste time and money trying to grab enterprise customers.
This goes against the conventional wisdom, that Apple is making a huge mistake not going after big business, except, of course, for school systems, where they’ve traditionally done pretty well.
If you believe what some tech writers have claimed, IT people around the world are all set to be wined and dined by Apple, so they can ditch the dreaded Windows albatross forever. But it’s really not that simple, and getting involved in pushing hard to build a large business portfolio may be a bad thing for Apple, although some third-party dealers are definitely trying.
Now I want Apple to succeed big time as much as anyone, but at what cost?
You see lots of businesses merely want cheap boxes to run their usually customized applications. They aren’t impressed by Apple’s specialty for superior fit and finish and find the serious limitations in configuration options to be a real negative. A large concern may expect Apple to ditch iLife, toss the Apple Remote, the built-in Web cam and other fancy features that consumers and small businesses crave, but the enterprise detests. Forget about having toys for employees to goof off during working hours. It’s all about the money.
When Dell and HP come calling, they are only willing to sell a company tens of thousands of cheap boxes equipped precisely as specified, no exceptions. Apple has traditionally not done that, although they have made some concessions for the educational market with such products as the late eMac.
Standardization also works against innovation. Yes, Microsoft may own the business market, but at what cost? Consider how many billions they have to spend on their products to retain backwards compatibility, for example. Besides, much of the growth in the business sector happens with smaller companies. Apple and Google are the exceptions that prove the rule.
This doesn’t mean that the enterprise isn’t getting Macs anyway. They often come through the back door, or perhaps the creative departments, where fiercely independent artists require their Macs. So the IT people may be forced to work on them, even if they doing it kicking and screaming to the very end.
The other entrance-way for Macs and other Apple products is the executive suite. As a company’s leadership acquires a Mac and now an iPhone for their homes, they often go to their technology people and insist they find a way to integrate those products with their office networks. Here’s where the magic happens.
Yes, there are exceptions to the rule, but recent versions of Mac OS X have all been designed to play nicely with multiplatform networks. You should be able to share files with your Windows counterparts with little difficulty. Even the infamous Exchange collaboration servers are getting better and better Mac support. The Leopard version of Mail makes it easier to access Exchange mail, and Microsoft has reportedly grafted improved support into Entourage 2008, which will be released in mid-January.
The iPhone? Well, it uses iTunes to sync your contacts and update software, and that operates on both the Mac and Windows platforms. Yes, there’s work to be done to integrate the iPhone with enterprise mail systems, but that will come, particularly after Apple’s software development kit appears in February.
Yes, it’s true that Apple isn’t making overt overtures to big business. But they’re still getting in, even if the route is more circuitous, and that’s a good thing.
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