Is Apple Gunning For Business Users?

All the hype surrounding Apple at the moment appears to be about its consumer offerings and little column inches are appearing about its business push, in fact, among the Mac community, there's rumblings of discontent over its perceived lack of progress with its PC platform but it's coming.

Some may question the relevancy of this piece to City IT workers but there'll be a high proportion of you who own iPods and an even higher proportion of tech shy workers who use them and may even have a Mac at home and will be wondering why they can't use their Mac in the office.

The answer of course is that they can providing that they use standard Microsoft Office applications and internal websites are standards compliant. This as we all know is not the norm.

So now we ask ourselves how Apple is going to overcome these obstacles, the answer is with a little help from their friends.

Clearly the process is an extremely long and drawn out one with Microsoft holding a near stranglehold over the business market. Apple started with the launch of the Xserve back in 2003 followed by Xserve Raid, Xsan and Xgrid (clustering software) all recognised as market leading products for power and low total cost of ownership (TCO).

In the next year Apple is moving all its PC hardware over to Intel processors. Not much has been made of this fact but although OS X will only be allowed to run on Mac hardware there is no platform limitation from Microsoft and certainly non with UNIX and Linux OS flavours. What this means is that IT departments will be free to use Apple hardware with existing OS and network installations, whether Windows, UNIX or Linux and at the same time use a spare Xserve as a dual boot machine to maintain a test environment and at the same time have a look at OS X Sever.

From a software point of view any internal websites which use proprietory Internet Explorer features will need to be changed as a result of the Disability Discrimination Act to make them standards compliant and hence available to not just screen readers but also Mozilla and Apple Webkit browsers. Of note Firefox now has a 10% browser market share as well which makes standards compliant external websites a much higher priority also.

Although business applications are typically platform dependant any large scale application worth it's salt has it's interfaces seperate from it's application processes. Any move to Mac is aided by it's Xcode UI development enviroment, standard API's for database access and Java integrated directly into the OS. Clearly if a business has invested in .Net technologies this change becomes more difficult but if open source technologies have been used expect Apple to be on the bleeding edge.

Finally security. Undoubtably some of Apple's success in this area is down to the fact that the market isn't there for Mac viruses but it's also true to say that the UNIX underpinnings stand it in very good stead and Tiger was a huge leap forward from previus releases. What's also important to note is that by the time Microsoft Vista is finally released OS X will be on it's sixth version and streets ahead in product lifecycle and development.

Whilst all this by no means compels businesses to convert it does at long last offer a credible alternative to the Microsoft monopoly. Expect all the pieces to be in place by the end of 2006 and the marketing push to begin.