Macs could infiltrate the enterprise

One of the biggest stories of last year was the continuing resurgence of Apple Computer -- as a music and media company. The wild popularity of the iPod has been one of the most remarkable successes in recent times.

However, the company has made too little serious effort to sell into enterprises, even when it could have made a strong case. Yet the case is actually stronger than ever in some respects.

For what Apple calls "creative professionals", such as people in advertising and media, the Mac is still the machine of choice. It's also a solid consumer model, especially for people who are into digital photography, video or music.

But Apple could expand its enterprise sales. One key reason is security. Despite some strong if belated effort on the part of Microsoft to fix its leaky flagship, Windows is still a security nightmare. Windows and other major Microsoft applications, notably Outlook and Internet Explorer, remain plagued by viruses, worms, spyware and other malware, and it's a constant battle just to keep up with the latest patches.

Mac OS X isn't immune, to be sure. Perhaps its low market share has prevented malware authors from plying their nasty trade on the system. But I can't remember the last time a Mac virus or worm caused any serious damage, and so far, at least, spyware is almost totally missing. And the base of OS X, the BSD variant of Unix, is widely recognized for its solidity.

Moreover, the Mac desktop is more than adequate for most tasks these days. One reason is that most of us do just a few things with our computers, with the browser, e-mail, word processor, spreadsheet and presentation applications covering many corporate duties. And Microsoft Office is available on the Mac, after all.

Sure, for many enterprises, the Mac won't be useful, due to platform-specific internal applications. This is what holds back not only the Mac but Linux desktop deployment, too.

Apple makes its strongest enterprise case on a higher level, with its Xserve G5 servers and Xserve RAID storage systems. Both are powerful, relatively affordable and -- as you'd expect from Apple -- easy to administer. (It's puzzling, however, that Apple let WebObjects, the system for developing server-side Web applications, languish in the marketplace.)

Dan Gillmor is the author of We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People (O'Reilly Media, 2004)

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