Will Apple ever become a viable enterprise technology?

Gartner Symposium debate stirs things up as analysts discuss the iPhone, Mac OS X and incorporating Apple products in business

The Great Debate between Gartner senior analysts, Nick Jones and Robin Simpson, was fierce and fiery and is sure to ruffle the feathers of IT managers and employees alike: Will Apple ever become a viable enterprise technology? The question is not new, but as the iPhone sneaks into the operating environment in spite of IT managers' wishes, it's a question worth asking anew.

The argument against

"I'm going to separate this into two parts: The iPhone and the Mac as an enterprise tool," said Nick Jones, arguing against the notion at the Gartner Symposium in Sydney. The iPhone, he said, poses major problems for IT managers, who are being forced to deliver iPhone applications for their enterprise, but can't keep up with updates to test those applications on new systems.

"What can you do about it? Nothing," he said. "You chose a consumer platform and you are paying the price."

The banter may have been lighthearted, but the issue at hand is serious stuff, especially around enterprise issues such as security and management.

"The iPhone as a platform isn't actually very secure. Apple doesn't care about security - just look at what they did before 3GS," he said, referring to encryption on the popular smartphone. "They didn't care about lying to you because they're a consumer company. Only enterprises worry about security.

"The platform looks wonderful, but as an enterprise platform, it's a joke. Who has heard of an enterprise computer that doesn't have background processing?"

He criticised the lack of access to application programming interfaces (APIs) and Apple's use of standards.

"Do you think they'll support HTML5, which will allow you to install applications beyond the App Store? The goal is to lock you into a proprietary vendor. Do you really want to be in that jail?"

Jones argues that Apple doesn't care about the enterprise and, since only about one per cent of enterprise PCs are Macs, it makes no economic sense for the company to invest in supporting the enterprise in any meaningful way because it's not making enough money from it. Then there's the total cost of ownership (TCO) argument.

"If you start running Macs, you have to start running two operating systems. So you are paying to support two operating system on one machine. That's not cost effective. If you look at our TCO models, it will cost you 58 per cent more to have a Mac in your company than a PC. Are you going to get 58 per cent more work out of your employees if you give them a Mac? What's the business case? It doesn't make any sense at all."

Jones claimed he was simply "introducing a little realism" into the debate and that enterprise needed some forward notice on products for business planning, rather than finding out "at the same time as the rest of the world".

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16 Comments

AdamC

1

Your report on this debate doesn't do justice to Apple, try to write a balanced one otherwise why be a tech blogger and a tech blog.

Mike

2

Gartner has always been legendary in its bias against Apple.

Anonymous

3

"Do you think they'll support HTML5, which will allow you to install applications beyond the App Store?"

The iPhone already supports HTML5, so you can see how much credibility this "expert" has, right out of the gate.

"If you look at our TCO models, it will cost you 58 per cent more to have a Mac in your company than a PC. Are you going to get 58 per cent more work out of your employees if you give them a Mac?"

Umm-- yes, you will. Definitely. Now what part of your anatomy did you pull those those bogus numbers out of, in the first place?

Bryce

4

Actually, the iPhone already supports HTML 5. Since they're based on the open-source WebKit rendering engine, Safari and mobile Safari will almost always benefit from the latest open web standards.

I'm concerned that there is a lack of knowledge about the iPhone in the professional IT community. A few months ago, I read an article about high-profile CIOs who were making totally untrue statements about the iPhone and it's lack of manageability. Nearly every feature of the iPhone and iPod Touch can be controlled with the iPhone Configuration Utility, and apparently nobody knows about it. True, the iPhone cannot be configured remotely without user interaction... but a user can install a configuration file from their email with a simple tap. But the claims "the iPhone's camera cannot be disabled" or "the built-in App Store cannot be restricted" are totally false.

Apple could definitely improve on the iPhone... but they're also heading in the right direction.

Wall-E

5

Apple is not a technology.... perhaps this article could use the word "Vendor" at the end of the title.

Hard to believe this is Gartner!

Dave

6

As a small medical business based almost exclusively on Mac we also provide our physicians iPhones. We run one Mac with Windows XP for the five minutes a day it is needed. The doctors NEVER use Windows. We kicked out a "real" Windows XP box that burned up its mother board and video cards three times in under 2 years because the vendor put on too hardware into too small a box. Want to wager which box cost us the most for us to support? Average uptime of that XP box was about 2 months. Its downtime in those 2 years was over 5 months. Shipping and repair costs on that POS alone would have bought two more Macs.

Jimmy

7

How can you be sure you will get 58 per cent more work out of the employees? I've used Macs (with OSX) exclusively for a month, and I still found it quite hard to do many things I did on Windows. Its the same reason why Linux hasn't gotten a higher share. Maybe after the learning curve it might be a bit easier to use, but if it takes more than 1 month for such a thing, do you really think it will end up being easier than Windows? Not to mention 158% of Windows?

Part of the problem are the extra programs available to Windows and not OSX. I use foobar2000 to manage my music, which isn't available for OSX. Even office software like MS Office and such, they're not easier to use than on Windows. Neither is Safari. All of my friends who use OSX use Firefox over Safari, and that's pretty much the same on Windows too.

Now admittedly, the consultant may not be right about Mac being 58% more expensive than Windows, but it is definitely more expensive. MS has licensing agreements with many large firms to sell Windows and other MS products for far cheaper than retail. Not so with Apple. Also, many firms may only update the computer without the monitor. Not so with iMac, and businesses aren't going to be buying Mac Minis. Just ask University of Melbourne, where many of their Macs are iMacs with Windows XP.

The extra cost is often due to the design of Macs, and businesses aren't going to care about that. Unless Apple moves in the direction of Microsoft and starts to write software with better security and maintenance, then licenses it without hardware, large enterprises aren't going to go in the path of Apple.

Anonymous

8

"you are paying to support two operating systems on one machine" er, no I'm not. My Mac came with an OS bundled into the price of the hardware. My PC required me to go out and buy an OS. Oh yeah, all the native apps on the Mac that also came for free (iPhoto, Mail, iCal etc.) I had to buy all those for my PC (eg. Office) as well. So when I buy a PC I have to spend extra money on an OS and then all of the stuff I need that didn't come free with the OS!

458Italia

9

The costs for a lot of IT shops to support Macs are high right now because a lot of these shops initially invested in Windows-only technology although in our organization, the Mac users are all self-supporting compared to the PC users.

As ISV's continue to release software with Mac versions or seamless Mac management the issue of cost will become less of a factor.

You also have to factor in that the college grads entering our workforce are much higher Mac users (some colleges report as high as 40% and growing) and are balking at using a clunky PC with a decade old OS. Thus, you have large enterprise companies that are implementing employee choice models to attract an important part of the talent pool.

Anonymous

10

"Are you going to get 58 per cent more work out of your employees if you give them a Mac? What's the business case? It doesn't make any sense at all"

Nor does the above statement. For this to be a legitimate argument, then the salary of the employee would have to equal the cost of the Mac, maybe even over the useful life of the Mac. Given the relatively cheap hardware costs now compared to 5-10 years ago vs. a hypothetical $50,000 average annual employee salary, I would think that even 1-2 % increase in productivity would easily pay for the Mac and more.

Richard

11

I am very surprised and astonished at the ignorance of IT people about Apple.

Most talk about security and know very little about it. Let me tell you a story... I had an ISP in Chicago called Ethernetix that supplied high speed Internet in the Sears Tower, among other buildings. One customer (a large trading firm) was complaining about slowness on its 10 mbps WAN line ... after a few days of investigating we found that a hacker had uploaded tons of PORN VIDEOS into one of their servers (A Windows Server) and had turned it into a porn server. They had Checkpoint firewalls, and "Windows business class" OS on their server. All this means nothing!

Apple has very secure products in comparison to Microsoft/RIM ... you just can't see it because you are blinded by years of using something else. WAKE UP !!!!

Anonymous

12

I can't take this article

Regarding the "proprietary nature" of the iPhone being a reason not to adopt it in the enterprise: Last time I checked the RIM platform was one of the most proprietary on the planet - and enterprises are heavily invested in blackberries. I mean for christ sake, you have to run their "proprietary" BES to talk to their servers in Canada to get most of their feature set.

And with respect to the "who ever heard of an enterprise platform that didn't support background processing" comment. Well its ridiculous. This isn't a PC with a quad core processor and an unlimited supply of electricity from the wall outlet we are talking about. Its a mobile device. The iPhone is currently limited from running backround apps *on purpose* to preserve the user experience and battery life. I can go all day on my iPhone without recharging it (multiple days with light use) . I'd rather be able to do that than run 5 apps and have to recharge it every half hour, or have the OS bog down so much that it is unusable. I am sure as soon as the hardware supports it in a reasonable fashion - the feature will be enabled. iPhone OS is OSX, and OSX multitasks with the best of them.

So, sure the iPhone might be missing some features in comparison to more mature smartphone platforms, and some of these features have to do with enterprise manageability. But the flip side is the iPhone has end user capabilities that many of these other smartphones don't. IT depts always whine on about platforms meeting the needs of IT professionals - do they ever stop to think about the needs of the end users? Or how about the developers?

Anonymous

13

With respect to supporting Mac OS X in the enterprise, its really not all that complicated. Its not usually reported on, but Apple has put a considerable amount of effort into making OSX fit into Windows networks in the past few years. It includes a connector to Active Directory that works out of the box to allow single sign on to Windows servers, access to network accounts, password policies, and home directory mapping - all without changing a thing in the windows infrastructure. Policy management is supported on the OSX clients as well without much more effort. The ability to deploy software and OS updates/images over the network is there as well. With 10.6, MS exchange client support is built into the OS - which is actually more than you can say for Windows, which requires the additional purchase of Outlook.

If you remember, Apple has strong roots in the education market and the ability to remotely and centrally deploy and manage client computers has been important to that market for a long time. Universities and schools districts are large enterprises. In many cases they are larger and more complex "enterprises" than many fortune 500 companies. Much of the feature set that articles such as this criticize OSX for not having is actually already there. These features could just as easily be used in the business market. (In many cases it already is).

I'm not going to claim that businesses should ditch their PCs and go "all Apple" for the sake of doing it. After all, the platform is really there to running appication software that best serves the users and allows them to do their jobs. And I am under no illusion that some software is only available for the Windows platform. But for those business functions where OSX applications provide the most compelling solution - integrating OSX into an "enterprise" network is actually pretty easy and low impact - even in a 100% Windows environment.

Anonymous

14

Said: "And I am under no illusion that some software is only available for the Windows platform." Meant to say: "And I am under no illusion that every application has a Mac OS X version - some software is only available for the Windows platform."

ITbod

15

This is hardly a debate when the 'against' spouts nonsense about the Mac and iphone and the 'for' does little more than take a backseat.
I work for an IT consultancy installing Mac systems for companies with large amounts of media to move/use/print/distribute and have never had a problem with integration into predominantly Windows systems. There has never been a security issue that could not be addressed nor with data loss. We generally get called in after their existing set-ups have failed to live up to the sales pitch from PC vendors. We have never been called back to either remove our servers or deal with persistent problems of integration. Fact is, we are now usually extending our initial systems to undertake more robust and extensive company wide database handling.
This post also rings false on another level - the number of IT support staff who are now obtaining Apple certification is increasing and we often find at least one staff member who is Mac/Linux savvy wherever we go.
Our sales team still say it's a hard slog and do a lot of visits with potential clients to existing Mac set-ups in other companies. We let the systems do the talking.
One point I feel should be raised - Apple's support for enterprise versus Microsoft. It's simply not an issue, there are vendors and support companies out there in abundance who know Macs backwards/ forwards or whatever. If we are talking software, then Mr Jones concerns re lockin is just as relevant to Windows or any other already installed system and those 'standards' he talks about are just legacy formats not real technology standards adherence - it just depends on which side of the fence you are standing in the first place.

Brian

16

Worthless article. Apple is already in fact the BEST choice for 'enterprise' you just need qualified IT people that are not in Microsoft's back pocket. Make no mistake, the corporate IT person is the only thing keeping Microsoft afloat.

To argue that any sort of WIndows setup is secure is absolute madness. Ditto that comment on using Blackberry over iPhone--the Blacberry is by far the proprietary, insecure 'solution' requiring extra servers and routing all your corporate email though RIM's own servers in Canada.

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