Fix Apple in the enterprise, goddamnit: MQ CIO rants


blog Chief information officers are a gentle, politely spoken bunch by nature; intelligent, well-educated, diplomatic. That’s why when one of them really lets loose at a vendor you have to stand back a little bit — or get burnt by the fireworks taking place. A case in point is Macquarie University CIO Marc Bailey’s epic rant posted this month about how Apple is completely screwing up its enterprise offering.

From Mac OS X Server, to authentication and directories, to virtualisation, it appears Apple just can’t get it right. Writes Bailey, in a post entitled “I want to believe”:

“My appeal to Apple is “get in the game or get out of it altogether because what you’re doing right now is akin to radiation poisoning of Macintosh in the enterprise.

… Ironically, when I started in higher ed I thought that it would be a seachange to enjoy core business attention by Apple Inc. Frustratingly, Apple it seems has transcended that traditional home ground and moved on to direct consumer relationships with its iOS strategy, meaning that even mainstream universities experience indifference. Apple risks losing all lab computing across the board in most universities, and relegating students and staff to a second class personal experience by making management of Macintosh a tenuous and minority pursuit. Ultimately that threatens freedom of choice at the desktop – something I’m passionately committed to.

Don’t get me wrong, nobody could be unhappy with the leadership and consumer tech at competitive price points that Apple is delivering these days. I want to believe that it is not willing to sacrifice heartland Macintosh adoption to do so.”

It’s hard to disagree with any of the points Bailey is making. For the longest time, Apple has had a ‘half-in, half-out’ strategy in the enterprise. I personally cannot understand why it does not create a unit of the company dedicated to serving these extremely lucrative customers. Sure, keep consumer as the main focus, but also target big business. It works for HP, Dell and so on. Why can’t it work for Steve Jobs’ merry band?

Image credit: J Miller, royalty free


    • It feels like a problem of scale to me — when the entire company’s major decisions go through one man, and that one many is focused on the consumer market, enterprise is going to get left behind.

      • It seems Apple’s current operating model in the consumer space is to define a usage model, then enforce it fairly strictly (mainly with iOS, but increasingly the MacOS side too). I think it simply isn’t interested in a market it cannot define. Perhaps Apple might have been able to get in if it had acquired VMWare, or similar, and started off by owning that virtualisation layer, but honestly

        Also, are Apple getting a bit of a free kick here? I’m not a Mac user at home, but it seems people are very forgiving when it comes to trying to get Apple products to fit into the enterprise. I suspect that if MS or RH or Oracle made life this hard for people, they’d be dropped in a heartbeat.

  1. This question has come up time and time again since Jobs returned, and the self-evident answer is that Apple just doesn’t care. It’s not that it can’t get it right, it’s that it doesn’t care if it gets it right or not.

    See: Final Cut Pro for more lols

    In the words of Daniel Jalkut (writing about Final Cut Pro), “Apple will happily piss off 5,000 professionals to please 5,000,000 amateurs”.

    • Yeah there has been a fair bit of annoyance about Final Cut Pro. Personally I will never understand why Apple sees the need to cut so many useful features and settings out of its software. It tries to make so many choices for us.

  2. Obviously he needs to have a chat with the guys at UNSW. Which has the best managed Mac OS X systems in Australia.

    They have:
    • Virtualisation
    • Dual booting labs
    • Remote management and Package Distribution
    • AD Integration for Authentication



    • How much of that is custom-written software, though? I work for a company that has a very large deployment of OS X and almost all of the management software has been custom-written.

      • I also work with a large deployment of Macs and very little is custom written save for an image creation script (using standand command line tools) and a configuration script, written in Applescript of all things, that sets up a computer post installation. We have:
        – netboot deployment of SOE
        – automatic patch distribution
        – asset management
        – software distribution
        – remote management from any machine using domain credentials
        – AD integration for authentication
        – Xenapp hosted applications

        among many other things. Also, NONE of the above uses OS X server. It’s all linux and windows backend. The only OS X you see is on the clients workstation. Some of the above would be marginally easier using a Mac server but not by a lot (despite which xserve is no more anyway).

        I’d agree somewhat that Apple doesn’t care about enterprise. All the tools you need are there either included in OS X or available elsewhere as it’s all standards based. It’s just a case that you are left to your own devices to figure out how to make it all work. XServe never really had a purpose so it’s no surprise it got killed, however I wouldn’t be surprised if we start to see Apple offer a new Mac Pro case that can be re-tooled to be rack mountable satisfying the needs of those that DO require a Mac server without the production line of a separate, but niche, product.

      • +1

        In my experience CSE ‘owned’ all their stuff. Don’t like something, write your own.

        That’s not enterprise plug and play that’s an Engineering Faculty.

    • Here at UNSW CSE department we have Macs

      We also have debian linux installed on Macs

      So if u want to call that a mac, then sure

  3. Maybe Apple just have a very different vision for the enterprise, the bring your own computer model.

    That’s certainly what they are doing with the IPhone and IPad, why not mac’s.

    Make the user responsible for admin of their own machine. Sure that’s not for every enterprise but maybe they are happy just playing in that market and trying to grow it.

    It would be very costly to try and go head to head with Microsoft.

  4. Apple do actually have a dedicated division dealing with corporates now in Australia. Apple are actively targeting large corporates now for iOS using this division.

  5. For Apple it comes down to margin. The XServe was a great little server but it broke even/made a small profit. Nowhere near the margins Apple expects from all it’s product lines so it was cut.

    The server and desktop market is flooded with low margin products where Apple just can’t compete so it doesn’t bother.

    The best thing Apple could do since killing the XServe is to allow virtualisation of Mac OS X Server on non-Apple hardware. Then again it could be argued there are plenty of tools to manage that Mac environment that can run from Windows/Linux servers so you can just run those.

    Apple would much rather be selling iPhones and iPads into the enterprise. The BYO computer works well when an enterprise is setup to host applications across multiple platforms (web based, Citrix etc.) and have the security at the hosted application level rather than at the edge.

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