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".

Next - The argument for...

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