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Everyday I talk to companies that are starting down a path, away from the old Windows centric paradigm, to do something "different".  Sometimes that is a fringe purchase of a new Mac here or there (see the CEO with a Macbook Air); sometimes it is a commitment to use iWork or "Open Office" instead of of MSFT Office; sometimes this is wholesale "switching".  My favorite is the company that makes the decision to go all Macs, and then says "OK, now, what kind of software runs on these things?" 

For me, here, the Enterprise is business.  Companies large and small.  I am facinated by and interested in the use of Apple products in any kind of business.

How Apple products are are faring in the Enterprise is a great topic of discussion. I am watching companies providing solutions (I work for one), and observing how Apple talks to the Enterpise.


Consumers: Apple's gateway to the Enterprise

It just takes a quick stroll through any major airport in the US to see the progress that Apple has made in the last decade.  More and more the business travelers you see are carrying Apple laptops and using iPhones.  This is long technology journey that has brought the business traveler to this point.

Back in the 70s and 80s, people usually encountered computer technology at work rather than at home. You had a text-based terminal connected to some corporate mainframe, which you probably never saw. As a result, workers were introduced to computers as something they couldn't and wouldn't have wanted to use at home.

This all changed in the 90s, when Windows PCs started replacing lackluster terminals. The design of the PC, with its local storage and personalization features like desktop wallpaper and themes, made technology at work much more personal. Workers started to become more interested in using their computers, and even thought about having them at home. When it came to buying, people went looking for computers like the ones they were used to. This is known as Microsoft's halo effect: MS Windows was the software everyone already knew.

At that time, Apple had strategy issues--meaning, Steve issues--and it was not chasing the Enterprise the way Microsoft was. Avid Apple users watched Microsoft's achievements in business, and the carryover to the home market. We noticed each time a friend bought a new computer, it was almost always a Windows computer. It wasn’t that these users necessarily enjoyed the Windows experience, it was that they knew it. It was familiar. Accessible.

The first real dent in the Microsoft halo came in October of 2001, when Apple unveiled the iPod, and a different strategy. Apple was going to attack the market from the other direction, creating a demand for their products by going directly at the consumer. The iPod, of course, was a runaway hit, without any hard technology innovation. The iPod simply took some pervasive technology (in the form of a portable disk drive), and wrapped it in a stylish and efficient user interface. All it took was a minute with a friend’s iPod once to sway you to get your own.

Suddenly, iPods and ads for iPods were everywhere. Consumers everywhere immediately appreciated the shiny hybrid of style and technology.  It was the first step towards cementing users to the Apple brand. Next came the iTunes software that can only be described as sheer brilliance. iTunes found a way to make our computers even more personal, putting my entire collection of music in one place.  Suddenly millions of us had Apple Technology with us at all times. Both Mac and Windows users had Apple hardware and software in the form of the iPod and iTunes. This set the stage for the Apple Experience.

Then came the iPhone, which was not just a phone, not just a music player, but a full-blown handheld computing device. iPhone users could decide what they wanted out of technology because they had it all in their hands, all the time. By 2008, when the iPod and iPhone users were tallied, millions were using Apple Technology, and the user base was blooming. Computer usage reports on college students are conclusive; they are devoted Mac users.  You know they expect the very same in in the workplace once they graduate. Employers are now finding they need to add Macs to the workplace to meet the personal and technological demands of their employees.

It's a repeat of what happened when the first wave of PCs hit the enterprise, replacing dumb terminals. Who would want to work for a company why that made you sit in front of a green screen? Today the incoming workforce, addicted to their iPhones, is biased toward Apple technology. And the effect is spreading: the last Apple results pointed out that 50% of the people buying Macs in the last quarter (and there were 3.5M of them) were buying Macs for the first time! Still!

My company sells an enterprise software application that runs natively on the Mac. Five years ago, our prospective customers were a small group of Mac faithful.  Sometimes it was only the CEO who used a Mac while wanting to find a Mac solution. Limited in choices, they had to settle for something on Windows to run his/her business.

These days, however, we are approached by more and more companies that have switched entirely to the Mac. CIO’s no longer have the luxury of doing the Windows thing and knowing that the users will get in line.  The end user is pushing their consumer-based technology preferences at work. ‘Why can’t I use a Mac here at work?’ ‘Why can’t I use my iPhone to check my email and check in?’

Companies of all sizes must now be able to answer such questions. Employers must take the necessary steps and adjust in order to make the workplace work for their employees. The best always have. Today a VERY real company benefit is when a progressive, forward thinking company uses Apple Technology in the workplace. Don’t you want to work there?


I am NOT leaving AT&T for Verizon (listen up)


I was all set to leave.  Not bitter, no horrible AT&T experiences.  No HUGE AT&T frustrations.  I have had, generally a great experience with AT&T.  AT&T worked better for me than my last carrier, Sprint.  I had MUCH better customer experiences with AT&T than with my other previous provider, Verizon.  I did not have a long list of AT&T grievances.  Except one.

In the summer, I spend a lot of time in a spot that has crappy AT&T coverage.  When my family is at this location, none of us can use our cell phones.  This was the anti-AT&T tipping issue.  This was THE factor that made the move from AT&T to Verizon the only logical choice.  I travel for business and AT&T has been just fine, actually consistent.  It was a tremendous bummer to spend your downtime in a place with no coverage.

This past weekend, I called AT&T to get any early termination charges for my cellular breakup.  My plan was to get ready to settle up, and order iPhones for the family on February 10th.  When I called AT&T, I get a fantastic, passionate representative that wanted to hear all of my issues, and was very focused on seeing if she could address them.  Right away she knocked down the coverage issue.  Did we have an internet connect at the house?  Yes, then the answer was the AT&T Microcell.  To keep me, their cherished customer, and my family, AT&T gave me a DEAL on the Microcell.  Presto, coverage problem solved.

Then there were termination fees……. They were willing to look the other way for me, I was already an iPhone user, they knew they'd get their money back from me.   They were not initially going to let them in with our a big old termination fee.  Again, after a little more discussion, they were willing to work with us on this too. 

So I am now back and committed to AT&T for another 2 years.

I had been thinking that 2/10/11 would be the beginning of the onslaught of AT&T defections from to Verizon.  Now I think not.  If AT&T puts for the effort they did with me, they will be just fine.  But its up to you.  You have to get out there and get your deal!


Hoping for the best for Steve Jobs



Digesting Verizon

It's been light on the business news front.  You have end of year and you have CES in which Apple just does not participate.  So clearly the Verizon iPhone announcement was huge.  So we will apparently be digesting the Verizon news for the next several weeks.

Don't get me wrong, I do think the Verizon iPhone is big.  It just doesn't (yet), apparently change the business environment for Apple.  I suspect it will make things better, bigger, but nothing concrete thus far.

I am sure there are others like me who will look at the Verizon change as solifying the phone as a busines platform.  I will feel more better in more places making that important call and not apologizing up front in anticipation of losing the connection once along the way.  IT Departments can feel a lot better blessing an iPhone on a network with which they have years of familiarity and proven performance.

More reliable connections = More business confidence.

AT&T has not been terrible for me.  But now having experience with all the carriers, up and down the East Coast.  I can say that my most consistent, reliable service was when I had Verizon.  We are coming back Verizon.  See you next month.


Is there a NEXT Apple Sever?

Since the announcement of Apple dropping the Xserve line, there has been quite a bit of chatter around what happens next for those companies that use Xserves today.  Some very interesting data came out of the Enterprise Desktop Alliance's survey of those users.  They got 1200 Xserve customers to respond to a survey where they asked What will you do next?  I found it interesting that 65% of those users said they weren't jumping into anything just yet.  A full 36% said they would keep running the existing Xservers until they just stopped working.  I love that kind of Apple user.

What I found REALLY interesting was the rumor 9to5 Mac threw out regarding Apple's NEXT thing.  NEXT THING?  Apparently Apple engineers are assuring customers that there is a follow on product in the pipeline?  Well I sure hope that is the case, but it does seem like a stretch to me.

Last month, Apple announced the end of the line for the Xserve.  They went on to recommend to their customers in the "Xserve Transition Guide" to use the Mac Mini for a server now.  Hmmm.  Is that because they can fit nicely in the rack? If the Mini isn't enough power, you have Mac Pro.  Ah, OK, but that sort of defeats the notion of the rack based server.  As in, this is how BUSINESSES use software - in a RACK.  As I pointed out in the last Xserve post, Apple can do what they want, what they are doing is working.  It just wouldn't make a whole lot of sense to me that they would have announce the discontinuance of a product, with plenty of justification, and then come back with something new, a few months later.

I can certainly see that Apple would want to hold on to their enterprise customers, and not have them pursue other options for servers. I just don't see a new server product coming any time soon from Apple.  If there is one, my guess would be later in 2011 or even 2012.  I would be happy to be wrong here.  I would love to see them come out with something so much better, that they didn't want it called an Xserve follow on product. Let's hope for that.

I still see Apple technology continuing the eek into the Enterprise. I am with Erica Ogg in believing that the consumers will continue to pull Apple into business.  More consumers using Apple technology at home will lead to more users demanding Apple technology in the workplace.  And Apple does appear to be getting ready to handle the Enteprise user by teaming up with Unisys for support.  Let's wait and see if there is any announcement following the official termination of the Xserve ordering and production.