Monday 28 July 2008

Can Apple Be Trusted?

I've been thinking about the MobileMe mess, the iPhone launch and the restrictions imposed on iPhone application developers and I have to wonder if Apple can be trusted. Before I continue I'm not saying Apple would do anything illegal or quesionable. That's not the type of trust I'm talking about. I'm talking about the kind of trust Enterprise customers need before they are willing to purchase your hardware.

The first point to get out of the way is the overly discussed issue of secrecy. It's been talked about so often that I'm not gonna spend too much time on it. Basically Enterprise customers do not like secrecy. They do not like surprise. They like to know months in advance what the upcoming hardware and software can do. They want to know which of their products are going to work and which ones are going to cause issues and they like to test them repeatidly before their customers get anywhere near the new product. That doesn't fit with the Apple "One last thing..." culture.

The next thing to consider is the Apple Ecosystem. Apple software favours the customer who buys only Apple software and interacts only with Apple products. However these kinds of restrictions cannot be imposed on Enterprise customers. Big companies have big clients and these clients will be using different environments. iWork 08 for example does not work well with Microsoft formats even though Office is the most popular word processing, spreadsheet and presentation environment. The fact is that Windows is a very open environment. Microsoft has made Windows so open and backward compatible that Corporations can feel confident that they can use their software on a Windows machine. This is most likely the key problem Vista is having. To code for it requires changes to applications that run just fine on XP, if it's not broken don't fix it.

If Apple are wanting to break into Enterprise properly then they have to start opening up to other companies. For example, blaming IE7 for not working with MobileMe properly is not the way to solve that issue. Apple want to be a big player and therefore they should've just coded to suit the most used browser in the world. Trying to force people to use Safari will not work in Enterprise environments were ordinary users cannot install whatever they want.

The third thing to consider is networking. Adding Apple machines to a network that also has Windows and other OS's on it is painful. For Microsoft Server 2008 only has to be able to play with Windows clients because they are the majority machine. If Apple wants to compete then they need to let OSX server be fully compatible with Windows clients. The compatibility has to go beyond file sharing, it must include permissions and groups. Enterprise doesn't have to replace all client machines at one time, they simply need to replace the servers as they feel they need to and they know that the effect on the clients would not be as noticeable as having to buy Macs would be.

Finally stop being so arrogant towards your investors and customers. If shareholders felt they needed to know about Steve Ballmers health for a justified reason you can guarantee they'd have their minds put at ease. That wasn't Apple's approach. They alledgedly stretched the truth. They twisted and finally an award winning author was insulted for voicing these concerns. This simply isn't the way a trustworthy corporation operates.

Apple could be a viable option for Enterprise if they play it right but their current tactics in the current environment is a receipe for disaster. Respect Microsoft in this field they are the Kings but at the moment Apple are nothing but the court jesters.

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