InfoWorld: Apple’s Mac OS X platform deserves good, hard look by enterprise

“One factor keeps getting pushed aside as we obsess over hardware progress: humans. Among the demands we make of new technology, raising human productivity should top the list. And although 128-bit registers have productive effect, usability has a magnitude more impact,” Tom Yager writes for InfoWorld. “That’s why Apple’s latest Macs and OS deserve a good, hard look as mainstream enterprise fare.”

“Apple accepts that raising user and administrator productivity is the responsibility of the core platform. As Macs achieve 64-bit ubiquity — a journey furthered by the September delivery of new 64-bit 17-, 20-, and 24-inch iMac one-piece desktops — and the Leopard (OS X 10.5) operating system/application platform stalks its way to a spring 2007 release, Apple is promising the benefits of next-generation nimbleness and power to the desks, laps, and consoles of users and server administrators alike,” Yager writes.

Yager writes, “Even non-Mac users acknowledge the advanced usability. So why do most purchasers of commercial and enterprise systems ignore Macs when they get serious about buying? In truth, the objections are well-known. Most have persisted for a while. Many are rooted in legitimate concerns, but others deserve push back, especially in light of Apple’s latest offerings. Read on, and decide for yourself whether you think Macs have earned — or will soon warrant — a spot on your enterprise short list.”

Yager tackles the following objections and misconceptions, doing some myth-busting along the way:
• “Macs are so expensive.”
• “A PC is a PC; who cares who makes it?”
• “It’s a proprietary platform.”
• “Why invest in OS X when Vista is going to wipe it off the map?” If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Steve Jobs is blushing. Apple Vice President Bertrand Serlet held the keynote audience at Apple’s 2006 Worldwide Developer Conference in a state of disbelief with a presentation showing that Vista’s design is rooted in OS X Tiger to a degree that even a die-hard Mac zealot would find incredible. When Vista ships, Apple will be delivering all of its new Macs with OS X Leopard. And if you’re hung up on Vista, the third-party Parallels Desktop will run it at blistering speed as a guest OS under OS X. There will be no vice versa in Vista’s favor.
• “I can’t manage a network of mixed platforms.”
• “OS X Server is unproven in critical, high-availability, and large-scale deployments. It’s an enterprise wannabe.”
• “Apple controls the availability of systems, parts, upgrades, and service.”
• “Apple’s got a smoke-and-mirrors hack that makes Macs run Windows.”
• “Apple’s product line is tiny. All other Intel OEMs focus on choice.”
• “Apple picked Intel when it should have gone with AMD.”

Full article here.


  1. It often takes a while for comfortable old knowledge to be discarded in favor of disruptive new facts. IT managers sometimes have to maintain two staffs of admins – one for Windows and one for *nix – and who can blame them for not wanting to mix in a third? Those who try it discover that OS X need be no more disruptive than any other flavor of *nix. If adding Red Hat along side your Solaris servers didn’t break you, OS X will be easy. Which is in distinct contrast to OS 9 or 8 – the very non-*nix OS they used in high school.

    Apple’s share of the server farm is growing rapidly. Not hard when you started from zero and a thousand or so in extra sales is a huge jump. What will change perceptions the most, though, is not under Apple’s control … good thing they are there already. The hot new topic in IT is ‘virtual machines’ … mainframes have this down cold and Linux can do a decent job of it. Apple may be in third place in this area, but note who has yet to be mentioned.

  2. The larger companies aren’t going to do it, theres too much anti_Apple sentiment among the IT staffs of those companies. The best way to do it is to start with smaller and medium sized businesses and work their way up.

    Also, as more and more people who use Windows at work get Macs for their homes, they will start to request Macs for use at work. Begrudgingly, IT staffs will be forced to support Macs and might learn a thing or two along the way, thus tearing down some of their misguided preconceptions about the platform.

    MW ‘consider’. How appropriate.

  3. A nice article, but he never really experienced using a Mac Server. It is far, far, easier to use and administrate than ANYTHING from Microsoft or anyone else; and one the most important differences that separates it from the others.

    A sneak peak of the upcoming Leopard version of the Mac Server is here…

    Take a look at this, and tell me it’s not easy…

    I can see why so many IT departments wouldn’t want this. Their staff would be reduced by 80% (if they ever bother to see how Apple actually does server functions).

  4. Actually Yager doesn’t get it. And neither do any of you. I’m an Apple user at home – I think it’s definately the best OS and has the best home applications (I was also a big NeXt user and understand that the new Apple is very different from the old). However, I also run an IT shop. The reason why IT doesn’t move from Windows is not the crappy OS but the applications – Office, Exchange, Sharepoint. It’s all installed, people are used to using it, and it’s a massive effort to replace it with other technologies – choosing new technologies, defining new solutions, implementing new solutions, training users etc… And then you lump on top of that the investment in Microsoft management infrastructure – SMS, Softricity, Identity Management, Active Directory and so on. So, I’d like to see any of you just chuck out years of work and investment and user familiarity and, by the way, a constellation of systems that do work at the end of the day, for another platform that is better but doesn’t justify the change. You justify that to your management and spend the funds and go through years making it happen. Go ahead.

  5. MW-


    Short term pain for long term productivity, security, stability.

    Corporations aren’t averse to making platform changes, It happens all the time when they change their ERP systems.

    The ROI [of an OS change] is just difficult to for Management to grasp.

    The next time a crippling virus hits, just think about how nice it would have been to sit back and relax, if only you had OSX running on your machines.

  6. It’s not just a difficult OS change to justify, it’s ALL the applications and management infrastructure as well – don’t forget that.

    And as far as viruses go – we don’t have any – we’re running a multi-level security infrastructure using Cisco PIX firewal, Tipping Point IPS, Symantec IDS etc… Again, investements are already made.

  7. MW, you – like a whole lot of other IT guys – need to try thinking for a change. You are reacting and looking at the negatives rather than thinking about the potential positives.

    I have been part of IT several large financial institutions. At each we had a mix of Windows, Unix and Linux. IT dealt with servers, not desktops. Unless the Help Desk was delegated to IT. But, when we talk about Xserve, we don’t need to spend even a moment wondering if those folk can keep up – they won’t even know the systems are in the building. Nor do we have to worry about their clients, the users – half of them don’t know what a server is, much less what the options are.

    We are talking about inserting a growing number of servers in Enterprise back rooms and on the desktops of people who don’t spend a lot of time bothering the Help Desk. Give Apple the 9% share of the business market that it has of the consumer market and it still won’t displace Dell or HP in the Enterprise. Nor will it put a significant strain on the Help Desk.

    My “daughter-in-law-elect” is in the Help Desk at a publishing house. Used to be part of AOL/Time-Warner – an Enterprise. Macs at all levels, but not for everyone. She has to support them. Went to class for it. Then bought her own. Your negative vision must be depressing.

  8. Frankly DLMeyer, your posting is somewhat incoherent, but I’ll attempt to respond.

    First, the epithet “IT Guy”. I’ve noticed that this hilarious derogation is a cop-out for those trying to explain why Microsoft dominates the corporate landscape – without actually explaining anything. So, you can attempt to ignore all of my argument by calling me stupid, but, in reality, I happen to be one of you. I own Apple stock. I love Apple products. I’ve “switched” all of my home computers to Apple machines. I anxiously await Apple’s living room solutions. I waste my time on Apple blogs. However, I also happen to be the head of IT for a corporation that currently runs all desktops, servers, and applications on Microsoft. So, unlike you, I’m actually responsible for the decisions I make.

    Secondly, your point about Xserve servers? I have no idea what you’re talking about. I think Xserve is a great product and for the few UNIX/Linux based applications that we do run, I would definately consider buying them. Doesn’t change a thing though for all the rest of our tech stack. So, again, what’s your point?

  9. MW –

    I understand what you are saying. The more massive the institutional inertia and the better-functioning the current system, the harder it is to justify the switch.

    At my company we have a multi-thousand user, very fragmented system with 5 separate environments (3 Novell, 2 AD (1 W2K, 1 XP)), Notes/iNotes for internal communication (buggy POS with clueless admins), some business-wide systems that are Windows-Specific, some that are cross-platform and some that are Unix. Virus protection is fine on the machines that are updated, but those in charge of updates can’t even tell us how many machines we have on the system, let alone what percentage of them aren’t updated. The vast majority of workstations are W2K, but a recent crippling virus attack finally convinced leadership to rinse out the last of the NT and W98 machines. We have had 2 botched attempts at introducing a new standard environment, each based on Novell/W2K and each introducing a new flora of support issues. This has resulted in a number of divisions being on their own compartmentalized environment, with new barriers to cross-divisional information access.

    Our Novell servers are unstable. Our NT servers are unstable. Our workstations are unstable. Our support and tech units are completely overworked. We need a comprehensive overhaul, with new leadership and new thinking to take us out of the quagmire of past mistakes.

    One more enlightened faction of leadership has come to the conclusion that the next updated environment to be introduced (with an eye toward eventual standardization throughout the concern) will not include a Novell environment, and will be based on a platform newer than W2K. I am encouraging them to consider all possible alternatives on both the server and workstation sides.

    We will soon be evaluating Mac Minis configured with Parallels Desktop and both OS X and XP, with our windows-specific systems on the XP side and all other systems (including mail and internet functionality) configured under OS X. This configuration would have a slightly higher initial cost than the Dull workstations that we currently use, but would save much more than that over the life of the machines when space, energy, support and useful life are factored in.

    Huge systems that work might have a hard time justifying a change. Huge systems that are broken need sweeping change if they are ever going to get better, and IT managers that do not consider OS X and the current line of Apple products under those circumstances are doing their companies a disservice.

  10. MW states some obvious and valid reasons why enterprises in the short term may not readily switch to Mac OS X. However, in the medium- to long-term, organizations are evaluating their plans and reliance on Windows-only technologies for a number of reasons.

    There is a critical nexus forming with Vista (and Microsof’s troubles with it), Apple’s move to Intel, well received Tiger, and fairly recently the announcement of Leopard details.

    Here is the slow process we’re witnessing:

    * IT allows Macs to be purchased and used, but not supported.
    * As more personnel use Macs, IT begins to think about support, infrastructure, compliance and other costs/factors associated with officially supporting Macs.
    * IT starts to support Macs in small and measured ways especially with respect to security policies and regulatory requirements. In the process of throwing Adobe Acrobat on a company fileserver, they grab the Mac version as well.
    * During scheduled technology assesments and evaluations for updated/upgraded infrastructure, IT begins casually asking vendors if their products and services support Mac OS X and other non-Windows plaforms.
    * As the number of Macs in the organization continue to grow, and the benefits (tangile and intangible) start to be known and understood, IT starts to officially allocate resources and monies towards Mac OS X support.
    * Windows-only technologies are slowly being phased out in favor of cross-platform/heterogeneous solutions.

    It’s really not a matter of “Windows” vs. “Mac” for the enterprise. It’s more a matter of cross-platform/heterogeneous requirements and solutions. As the Mac enterprise market grows, solution providers will start to support it in their enterprise products and services which helps fuel the enterprise Mac market growth further.

    Let’s not forget that Apple “officially” doesn’t have “enterprise-class” products. Apple is focused on the small to medium business/organization market. Of course, that’s not stopping enterprises from taking up various Apple solutions, products and services and applying it to their organization.

    What we need is a really good market study (IDC, Jupiter, Forrester, Gartner, etc.) that details the scope of Apple solutions, products and services in small through large enterprises. What’s the ratio? What’s the trend? What is helping the rise of Macs in the enterprise? What is hindering it? What is the current thinking of enterprise customers towards Macs? What are the current tendencies of enterprise customers towarsd Macs? Etc., etc., etc.

  11. Daner – I feel for you. In fact, I very much have experience where you’re coming from – we ran a mixed Novell/Windows 2K environment with 98 mixed throughout. I spent at least 2 years trying to move to a Novell Linux environment across the boards on the server side. However, after much analysis, what I realized is that I would never get that far – the best i would get was 50% Suse, 50% Windows 2003 – after alot of work. You see, every vendor out there says they support their apps on Linux, but they actually don’t DELIVER their apps on Linux. They deliver them on Windows 2003. So at the end of the day, I’d have a 100% Suse Linux compatabable environment…without any Suse Linux. So, I realized that everything would integrate better and many problems would finally be resolved if we just got rid of Novell. Now, I could have gone with Apple, and believe you-me, I thought long and hard about. The problem is those darn applications again. All those users running Microsoft Office and CAD applications and other industry specific apps that don’t run on Apple – I’d have to replace them all. At the end of the day, my world was so much better just getting rid of Novell and sticking with Windows.

    Sounds like your company is still trying to dance in the devide by using Novell eDirectory and Windows boxes – we’ve found AD to be quite functional and stable. Everything is massively simplified. Throw in Sharepoint on top of it (an excellent Microsoft innovation by the way – oops! Did actually say Microsoft and innovation in the same sentence?!).

    Well, good luck Daner. I’d love to see a successful enterprise implementation using Apple.

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