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  • A Look at Apple’s Scheme to Take Over the Windows Desktop

    June 19th, 2008

    In the past, software publishers were ragged for delivering applications to Mac users that were far too reminiscent of the Windows platform. WordPerfect got a bad start as a result, and perhaps they never lived it down. What’s more, when Microsoft delivered Word 6, it came across as a poor handmaiden to the Windows version, complete with notoriously foreign interface conventions.

    In all this, I suppose Mac users felt lucky if a Windows developer deigned to build a Mac version, so, aside from interface and performance complaints, we were mostly content. Well, some of you anyway, and it’s fair to think that perhaps they made it Windows-like so you’d just get disgusted at get a real PC and be done with it.

    Fast forward to 2008, where Macs sales are soaring, and, in recent years, there’s evidence that Apple wants to finally break into the enterprise, after ignoring it for so many years. This doesn’t mean that larger businesses didn’t use Macs. In most cases, they were consigned to the art department, where those “eccentric” content creators wouldn’t touch a PC with a ten-foot pole.

    These days, the boss buys a Mac or an iPhone, and then exhorts the IT people to figure out a way to incorporate these fancy gadgets into their workflow.

    However, Apple’s entering a major new phase of their marketing strategy, which began, to some extent, with the introduction of iTunes for Windows and later a versionof Safari for that platform. Now just releasing a Windows version  is but part of the story. While Apple has been lambasted in some quarters of the tech press for this, they went ahead and retained a huge chunk of the Mac interface in the Windows version. That, my friends, is what some of those software publishers have done in reverse to Mac users all these years.

    What helped, of course, was the iPod, which has a user base that’s far more Windows than Mac. The iPod gave millions of people a look at Apple technology, and, when they use iTunes to manage their songs and movies, they are living within something that resembles the Mac OS X user environment. Safari only expands the joy.

    I don’t know if you’ve used Safari for Windows, but it’s so close to the Mac version in some ways that you might think you’re working on a Mac at times, unless you look real carefully. No, I’m not going to get involved in Apple’s controversial efforts to get folks to download a copy, by leaving the option checked in its Software Update panel.

    But these are consumer-related initiatives. Up till now, Apple hasn’t done a whole lot to expand beyond the small business user, but the iPhone 3G will change all that. First and foremost, Apple licensed Microsoft’s ActiveSync technology to provide full support for Exchange servers for push email and calendars.

    Indeed, we learned of that a few weeks ago, but now we also know that Apple is doing the same for the next version of Mac OS X, code-named Snow Leopard. Now 10.6 won’t be a feature release, although Exchange support is a feature. Instead it will offer performance boosts, and a smaller footprint. The latter appears to be coming from ditching support for PowerPC Macs, but it will be otherwise the same in basic functionality as today’s Leopard.

    So where is Apple going from here?

    Well, take a look at the forthcoming MobileMe, with its PC-style logo. You can’t call a set of Web services .Mac if you want to reach Windows users, although I am not going to use the me.com address for my email unless I’m dragged to that point kicking and screaming.

    What’s more, the applications in the cloud that Apple gives you with MobileMe will very much resemble their Mac OS X counterparts, particularly Address Book and Mail. The intent here is to push this service as much to Windows users as the existing Mac user base, and this means that there will be another way for Apple to expose that other computing platform to the Mac OS X’s interface.

    Clever that.

    Now where is Apple going to go from here? Well, that’s a good question. Consider: In this week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, commentator Kirk McElhearn suggests that Apple might indeed produce an expandable Mac priced just above the Mac mini to cater to business users, the folks who buy PCs by the tens of thousands.

    As with the “mythical midrange minitower” or headless iMac some of us have been talking about for quite a while now, it would offer roughly half the expandability of the Mac Pro, so you’d be able to install an extra hard drive, an extra PCI-based peripheral card, and several extra RAM sticks.

    Most important, it’ll be an easy box for IT professionals to upgrade in minutes, in the tradition of the Mac Pro and Power Mac G5. Unlike the Mac mini, you won’t need a putty knife or other implement to get inside.

    If such a model is accompanied by a huge marketing push from Apple, all these forces may coalesce to give Apple the enterprise credibility they have lacked for so long. You heard it first here.



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    9 Responses to “A Look at Apple’s Scheme to Take Over the Windows Desktop”

    1. BobS says:

      “If such a model is accompanied by a huge marketing push from Apple, all these forces may coalesce to give Apple the enterprise credibility they have lacked for so long. You heard it first here.”

      It will take more than a new hardware and marketing to really gain Apple credibility in the enterprise. Apple will also need to offer support programs geared for the enterprise. The other problem is one I think you have mentioned in the past: enterprise customers want their IT vendors’ to provide a roadmap of their future plans which is something it is hard to imagine the current Apple supplying.

      Personally, I expect Apple’s “enterprise push” to focus more in the small-to-medium business sector where they will face fewer demands from IT pros and also have a better chance of selling server solutions (Exchange support in Snow Leopard, notwithstanding).

    2. Some sort of enterprise-related marketing division would surely be essential. If that’s where they are going, however, I presume they’re fully aware of what they need to do to sell the goods.

      Peace,
      Gene

    3. BobS says:

      Gene-

      They will also need to offer tech support (both hardware and software) programs specifically designed for enterprise. When a company has a problem, they want a solution NOW! And that solution cannot be to drag an ailing computer into an Apple Store or ASP, or to send a unit in for repair. They will need on-site repair programs (heck, this is something they really should have for the SMB market).

    4. tom B says:

      “It will take more than a new hardware and marketing to really gain Apple credibility in the enterprise. Apple will also need to offer support programs geared for the enterprise”

      yea– that’s the thing that kills me: IT won’t support Macs because MSFT-cozy Enterprise Software developers don’t, and all the while the actual USERS don’t give a fig about the cr*p IT is so worked up about. The USERS just want computers that WORK.

    5. tom B is right when he says users just want computers that work … computers that wake from sleep quickly, reconnect to the wireless network seamlessly, print each and every time. Is that too much to ask? And why is IT deciding for me that Windows is best for my needs when there isn’t the software that I’d like to use?

    6. I’m not so sure Apple is only going after the SMB market considering 35% of Fortune 500 companies are testing iPhone 2.

    7. Dana Sutton says:

      Here’s another detail not to be overlooked: since Safari is the only browser that currently works on the iPhone, and maybe is the only one that ever is, Safaris’ overall market share as a browser is going to skyrocket.

    8. Tom says:

      In their current form, Apple seems interested in a greater number of spaces than before, but focuses their interest on the most profitable sales within each space. Millions of cube farm mini’s might make headlines, but will not provide the same return on their capital as will the iPhone.

      Always think about Apple in this manner – maximum return on effort.

    9. JasonBee says:

      tom B is right when he says users just want computers that work … computers that wake from sleep quickly, reconnect to the wireless network seamlessly, print each and every time. Is that too much to ask? And why is IT deciding for me that Windows is best for my needs when there isn’t the software that I’d like to use?

      You hit the nail on the head. I have worked in Enterprise IT for somthing closing on 10 years now, and what still seems to be happening is that IT often decides for the client what the client needs. However that is changing albeit carefully. The reason this situation exists is because what the client feels they need is often due to the vapourware marketing circling their brains daily. IT has to IMPLEMENT what you think you need. Their jobs are on the line for what you feel you need because it is THEY who must make it work. Just because your printing works doesn’t mean the single sign-on infrastructure and backend security needs are met. As with everything the devil is in the details. You may think Microsoft is just “Windows” but if you looked closely it is a rainforest ecosystem of huge proportions and huge investments that is nearly self-sustaining. Supplanting that is what Apple needs to focus on. Not delivering a cheap desktop.

      Apple expects to get in there just on the desktop and hardware alone, but what enterprise buys is a SOLUTION…ergo something that works on many facets to deliver a service that the Enterprise IT must support and maintain.

      The desktop is often as much a focus as whether your telephone company chooses Spruce or Pine when setting up a telephone pole. Watch how Vista is being discussed in the technical forums and you will see why Apple could fail even more spectacularly unless it gets some vendors on board with REAL products that allow for Enterprise integration. My hits list?

      1) Native Novel client – FROM Novell, not a 150.00 add-on by Prosoft Eng.
      2) FULL Active Directory Support – FROM Apple, not a 100-150.00 add-on from Thursby.
      3) Full application delivery and support options. Take a cue from MS Vendors. We need pre-packaged Admin options to get all the Windows Admins working with Mac – expect them all to learn Bash or Perl scripting? Not likely yet.
      4) Full PCL5 and PCL 6 support from HP, Lexmark and Canon.
      5) Compatibilty testing for enterprises that run web apps for IE or Firefox. These need off the shelf tools to assist in re-writing web apps for Safari. If Apple expects enterprise to USE Safari they’d better has these tools yesterday.

      Plus many many others…but in this moment these stick our for me after recent build image work on our Tiger setup.

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