How Apple is getting into the Enterprise

Scaling / December 4, 2007 / Alykhan Jetha

A lot has been said about how Apple should attack the enterprise market. I used to think that that would be a good thing in order to grow market share. My argument was that people will buy for home what they use at work. The day of the consumer influencing business was gone – that happened in the 80’s and the 90’s and now Apple had to do the reverse – influence business and thus influence the home. Of course, back then, the iPod had just launched and iPhone wasn’t even a flicker in our eyes.

We (the people that argued for the enterprise push) where frustrated at Apple for not pursuing that market. After some reflection, I came to realize that if Apple did indeed pursue the enterprise, their level of innovation would slow down – probably significantly. Why do I believe that? Because I was there when NeXT had to revert their new and fantastic interface in NeXTSTEP 4 to their NeXTSTEP 3 interface because all the enterprise customers refused to buy the upgrade – the cost of retraining their staff was too high. I remember being very sad the day I learned that. Somehow I had forgotten that lesson – but thankfully, Steve Jobs didn’t.

Steve Jobs has said it many times, Apple will innovate and that innovation is the avenue for Apple’s long term success. If Apple has to worry about keeping slow moving enterprises happy, it cannot innovate and thus it cannot have success. Just look at how much effort and work Microsoft has to put into maintaining all kinds of backwards compatibility. It’s the ball and chain that will render it as “just another tech company” and topple it from the top. While Microsoft has tried to make a somewhat new OS that is backwards compatible, Apple has shed the Mac OS, the classic environment and the PPC processor. Just think about that for a second.

Being the authors of Daylite & Billings, we know there is a price to pay to keep up with this innovation. At each major OS upgrade, we’ve had to struggle to make Daylite work right with the new OS. It’s a pain and it’s costly, but it is absolutely the right thing to do.

The irony in all of this is that Apple is actually getting into the enterprise. As good an argument it is, I do not think Winn Schwartau’s reasoning of lower cost ownership, while true, is driving this trend. This trend is driven by the users who first experience Apple’s ease of use via an iPod or increasingly via an iPhone, who then take a very small risk and buy a Mac. That leap is small risk because as it turns out, a Mac is the best Windows machine – yet another irony. What is this World coming to.

It used to be that employees in the lower rungs of the food chain would try to bring Macs into various businesses – big and small. They would inevitably get shot down by IT staff or their bosses. We know this because Daylite was often an accomplice in this kind of maneuver. Now the tables are turned, it is the high level execs that are experiencing that Apple ease of use and those execs are demanding Macs (and thankfully business software).

The other bit of irony is that Apple is worth more than IBM, DELL and other enterprise focused companies. Mark Hall of Computerworld suggests that the enterprise is an afterthought at Apple – indeed that is the way it supposed to be. You can’t innovate when you cater to dinosaurs.

Until next time…

Join 38,877 subscribers making clients happy and growing their business.