Friday, July 24, 2009

I Predict! Windows 7, Apple and the Enterprise

I was dismayed to read the article "Windows 7 Release May Put the Brakes on Apple Enterprise Growth" over at eWeek today. Apple doom FUD has been scarce over the last couple years. Much of this happiness has to do with Apple's record growth during the current period of recession. Therefore, reading this article intrigued me.

Background on the subject:

"The Enterprise" is a computer niche that is entrenched in using Windows, certainly on the client side. When I was at Kodak, we also used UNIX as the server backbone. Macintosh computers have historically been used only for specialized purposes, or employees have insisted upon bringing in their own. I've been one of the latter. Typically, such employees end up providing their own technical support. Despite the superior usability and simpler technical support requirements, enterprise IT staff in general avoid having anything to do with Macs. There are exceptions. We had some very Mac friendly staff at Kodak. I know Princeton University does as well. These days integration of Macs into the enterprise is a requirement at educational institutions. But it is Windows that typically runs the show, even if it is not used as the backbone.

The continued growth of market share of Macs in the enterprise has been of concern to many IT staff. Gradually the lack of enterprise software suites for Mac has become irrelevant thanks to web page interfaces for client users. There are also the usual people devoted, for one reason or another, to championing Windows in the Enterprise. I personally can't comprehend this point of view and I work with both operating systems. Then again, I despise the CLI and many adore it. Diversity rules, as ever. Each type of computer has its fans and its specialized purposes in any environment.

Below are the comments I posted after reading the article at eWeek:
Setting aside the olde tyme Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt routine in the article, here are some actual factors involved in Apple's enterprise growth:

Mac OS X Server: The big factor for me has been the maturity of Mac OS X 10.5 Server. It has had a fumbling, bumbling time as bugs have been solved. However, my impression at this point is that Mac OS X 10.6 Server will be the best server OS Apple has ever offered, which is saying a lot. I'm looking forward to it. 10.6 Server will hit the market before Win 7 client, a year before Win 7 Server. Since we're predicting into the nebulous here, I predict a Home Run!

Software: The biggest factor, as Mr. Reisinger pointed out, is business software. There has been very little migration of major biz SW suites to Mac OS X. If Apple can continue growth in the niche, we can hope that changes.

IT intransigence: The myth goes that it takes more time to support Windows AND Mac operating systems. False. The myth goes that Mac OS X is difficult to learn after working so hard to comprehend Windows. False. Instead there is the laziness factor. True. However, Mac OS X has a learning curve, even for experienced Windows users. Apple typically provide better, more efficient and powerful methods for getting things done. But without a guiding hand to point them out, some people give up using the line "I can't do stuff on a Mac that I used to do on Windows!" False. The problem is the transition. And if you have intransigent IT staff unwilling and unable to help, it can appear easier to fall back on what you know. Thankfully, new Mac users who stick with it typically end up never wanting to go Windows again if they can help it.

Vista Service Pack '7': The hoping and praying that Windows 7 is somehow something new and different compared to Vista is nonsense. Not one review I have read regarding the beta has agreed with that premise. Therefore, I see no point in any argument that Windows 7 is going to save Microsoft or knock Apple any which way. Windows 7 has a few very lovely, imaginative and powerful new features which should make Microsoft proud. But these features have been put on top of what is a desperately needed patch job for Vista. The usability of Vista will increase as well the speed. But it's still Vista at the core.

64-bit: Apple provide a 64-bit operating system that causes no compromises. Everything 32-bit still works natively. Sadly, 64-bit Windows 7 maintains the same old driver incompatibility problems and only runs 32-bit operations in emulation, if at all.

Apple's Disinterest: Years back Apple got burned in the enterprise niche, mainly due to the lack of software, and gave up bothering. Very slowly Apple has noticed that enterprise demand is rising. But they have not yet provided a full dedicated team of experts to support the niche. This can be annoying. It will be interesting to watch what Apple do as their market share continues to rise.

Microsoft Marketing: It's as if all the marketing mavens working with Microsoft got up and left the room. What's left is incompetent and dishonest. That Microsoft want to put their new stores next to Apple stores is suicidal. But there are many who believe marketing plays a much smaller role in the enterprise niche and that Microsoft's dominance, as well as development and support concentration, is enough to sustain their continued presence. I personally expect that is the case. But there is always the employee voice speaking up to management. This voice is responsible for a lot of Apple's enterprise growth, and I suspect the pressure to drop Windows will continue.
My prediction for the future is that the benefits of having a diversity of hardware, software and operating systems will become ever more evident. This will require easy interfacing between every type of computer. Apple have made slow but steady strides in this respect. However, Apple still receive deserved criticism for some of their not-ready-for-prime-time solutions. This is one reason I anticipate the improvements in Mac OS X Server 10.6 Snow Leopard. I believe Windows 7 will be a nicer operating system than Vista. But what puts me in suspense is Snow Leopard Server. Apple have taken the time to get it right this time. Will it be terrific?! It's time for me to start fishing around for rumors and underground reports, always a fun endeavor for research hounds.

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