Letting Apple into the enterprise isn't easy

Mac veterans say Apple doesn't always act like other technology partners

Eighteen months ago, Serena Software began exploring the feasibility of supporting Apple MacBooks as an option for its users, most of whom are developers. It was interested in lowering support costs and increasing satisfaction among employees who used Macs at home, including the CEO.

Today, half of Serena's workers opt for the MacBook over a Lenovo laptop when they're hired or due for a hardware refresh, bringing the number of Apple users to about 100 out of 800 globally, according to Ron Brister, senior manager of worldwide IT operations. Not only have support calls declined, but users are also grateful for the choice.

"Gone are the days when IT dictates how people get their jobs done," Brister says. There have been no problems when it comes to interoperability with Serena's Windows-based data center, he says. And with the discount Apple offers, the MacBooks are roughly the same cost as the Lenovo T61, according to Brister.

Anthony DeCanti, vice president for technology at Werner Enterprises, has a markedly different story to tell. Five years ago, Werner brought Macintoshes into the company to offer users an alternative to Microsoft Windows. But over the past two years, DeCanti has seen a steady decline in Apple's enterprise efforts.

"Two years ago, I would have been fired up and telling you this thing has wheels," he says. "But I really feel like Apple has taken its eye off the ball for acceptance into the enterprise and put its efforts into the iPhone. From a shareholder's perspective, maybe that's a great idea, but from an enterprise standpoint, I really feel let down."

While Apple will likely infiltrate more corporate environments -- thanks to the enthusiasm it has generated in the consumer market and the enterprise-friendly features added to the Mac and iPhone -- that doesn't mean it will be easy. Even Mac veterans say Apple doesn't always act like other technology partners and that doing what it takes to mix Apple into the environment takes time and research.

A Mac enthusiast, DeCanti lauds the computer's "incredible elegance, great operating system and incredible graphics." However, his list of frustrations includes poor Active Directory integration, Apple's exit from the storage hardware market and a lack of advancement with the Safari Apple browser.

Worse, whereas he used to get access to Apple engineers and insights into product road maps through nondisclosure agreements, annual meetings and executive briefings, that has ended, he says. As a result, DeCanti has decided to freeze Mac purchases for the time being while continuing to support the Apple machines Werner already has, including 250 desktops and 14 servers used to perform route optimization.

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