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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.


Apple Business Expo - the road show

If you follow technology at all, every day you hear about Apple's undeniable impact in the consumer market.  Their impressive consumer run started with the first iPod back in 2001.  The iPhone has been a continued, evolving success since 2007, and the iPad is all set up to be "THE" gift for this years' holiday season.  The Halo effect alone is also pushing the Mac to the top of everyone's Home PC and laptop list.  Apple is clearly rocking in the consumer space, but what about the Enterprise?  What about business?

Every day at my company, xTuple, I feel like we are on the front lines of Apple in business.  We talk to companies every day that are looking for real Enterprise applications on the Mac.  Every day they are frustrated that that there aren't more business solutions for them on the Mac.  They always ask the same question: why isn't anyone speaking to the Mac business user???

Last week I went to a trade show/expo that was doing just that - speaking to Business users.

The Loop Business Expo is a traveling Apple-focused business trade show that is moving from city to city around the US, targeting the Apple business user.  These shows are designed for, and are specifically catering to, business users of Apple technology.  xTuple partner Mark Robbins of Mainmast Systems and I participated in their Miami show last week.  We see business users every day in our community, but we don't always hear so much about them outside of our world.  As the designated Apple fanboy at xTuple, I was happy to see a great turnout at this show, despite the monsoon conditions that blew in from the warm tropical waters.

The show had vendors participating from all corners of the enterprise, including hardware vendors with products such as enterprise storage, scanning and document management.  There were enterprise software vendors including transportation management software, and yes, even other ERP solution providers.  From talking to attendees, I know this was a real treat for the Apple business user.  That user will certainly get good attention at the local Apple Retail Store, but she's typically waiting behind three other guys buying new iStuff.

It was a diverse group of users that attended the show as well.  We met Apple devotees using Macs in doctor's practices, consulting companies, insurance offices, media firms, and of course manufacturers, distributors and retailers.  It looked to me like a reflection of our economy at large.  Some of these businesses were all Mac, or moving fast in that direction.  Others were a mix of Mac and Windows, and wondering if they could really co-exist in both worlds (to which we have an easy answer!)  They were using the iPhones in the business, and pushing hard for business adoption of iPads.

Based on the success of the first show, we have signed up for the next one, in Orlando in December.  We are looking forward to another exciting show there, and then it's on to Macworld in January!  If you are in the Orlando area, please stop by and see us at that the Orlando Hilton Conference Center on December 8th.


Apple Announcement-Short on Business (short term)

I watched the announcement late last night as I was tied up during the actual announcement yesterday.  I was getting the feeds, so I knew what was coming, but it's always great to watch Steve present.  For me, it was a doozy.  I believe everything released yesterday continues to strengthen Apple's position in the marketplace.  First as the consumer electronics leader, clearly.  There really was no specific "announcement" of interest to a pure Business focused watcher.  As a fan of all things Apple I want everyone of the new products.  There certainly COULD be some business applicability to these products.  The real win for Apple in the Enterprise however, is the further Apple penetration in General. 

Steve went on and on about Apple Retail Stores sales.  Robert Paul Leitao has terrific detail and analysis of the retail gains on his Eventide Blog. This paints a rosey picture for Apple in general, but when you hear a stat like 50% of the customers buying Macs were buying their first Mac, you have to let that sink in.  Apple Technology in the Enterprise is on the rise, no doubt about it.  This pull into the Enterprise comes from the consumer, using the Mac at home, pushing for Mac use at work.  Carefully planned or not, specific announcement or not, this paints a healthy picture ahead for Apple in Business.


Apple Business Expo in Miami - YES

Here it is, my kind of business conference.  Last week I learned of a specific business expo for Mac customers, and signed up to participate - right away.  Later this month, Loop USA and several Apple Retails Stores are getting together for show targeting small businesses in Southern Florida that use or want to use Apple technology in their business.  Loop has done similar conferences in other parts of Florida, and has seen terriric turn out.  It's great to hear (but not surprising) that in these times of shrinking and cancelling conferences and trade shows, one particular show is doing well - one that focuses on Apple Technology in the Enterprise.

The Apple Business Expo will have have a day of educational sessions, and and open expo floor full of hardware manufacturers and software developers presenting their products and showing their wares.  For many business users of Apple technology, there are limited avenues for seeking out products to help run their business leveraging Macs and other Apple technology.  These business users are typically limited to visiting the Apple Store and relying on the local Business Partner Manger's expertise, or just slogging through various Google searches.  This show will be invaluable to the growing population of Apple users across Southern Florida.

The concept for the show is the brain-child of Carmine DeSanto, CEO of Loop USA.  Carmine had participated in similar shows in greater Toronto, prior to moving to Southern Florida.  He felt that no one was providing a real venue for the end user, so set out to provide a resource, in his back yard, to give customers in Florida a small taste of what Mac faithful users get to see every year at Macworld in San Francisco.  Macworld has a small carve out section of their Expo dedicated to Enterprise and Business solutions.  This conference is specifically FOR those Enterprise/Business customers, I look forward to more shows like this around the US.


iPad - is a role in business here yet? Hurry up!

I get excited at every headline I read that mentions "business" and "Apple" in the same sentence.  The iPad momentum is exciting, and recently there has wave of important business people praising the iPad.   AT&T's CEO is a great fanboy.  I hear SAP founder Hasso Platner also sees a big future for the iPad in business.  NYC Mayor and Bloomberg chairman Michael Bloomberg is sold on the iPad (see picture).   Great news, but what problem are they trying to solve with the iPad? 

When the iPad was first rumored to be coming out, the nay-sayers all said: "OK, sure, Apple could do something cool here, but what is the problem the magic tablet is going to solve?"  As SP Chan highlights in the Seattle Times, there have been tablets before, what's new?

I said: Just wait, you'll see. It will be SOOO magical, that it will just fall into place. I saw it immediately sliding into people's lives.  I assumed we would all say in unison "I cannot believe I lived this long without this thing".  I was absolutely confident in the immediate coming future.

But here we are.  4 months after release, 7+ months it was announced later (an eon in tech time).  Here is what we still don't have:

1. iPad business solutions
2. iPad competitors

Let's go in reverse order.  I cannot believe we don't have competitors, STILL. Really?  They all knew it was coming. Last year at CES there were dozens of tablets coming.  But we have exactly NONE.  4 months later.  WTF?? I am pleased that Apple continues to have this lead.  It shows true, impressive first-to-market mojo. We suspected it was coming. I, for one, said it would change my live when it hit.  Wouldn't other tech companies go ALL OUT to get a product to market to get into the mix? Even just to get SOMETHING out there?  But we got nuthin.

Is that because there are not any real tablet solutions out there yet?  Where are the iPad killer apps?  They just don't seem to be out there yet.  I keep watching, really.  I  thought by now there would be a WAVE of things happening in this space that would make my head spin.  Remember I said "It will change my life"? Where is my change?  At SAP's user conference, SAPHIRE, SAP and some partners showed some apps working with iPad. Those don't seem to be very big iPad sales drivers.  There was no killer app listed in Michael Bloombergs list of daily uses.

What I am getting at, is that maybe we are still at a place in the market where the tablet, even a tablet as awesomely cool as the iPad, is still NOT solving a problem yet.   Here is my iPad experience.

I have one. I have it with me at all times.  I have the iWork suite on it. Here is what I use it for: reading.  I read every night on the iPad.  I find it to be an amazing eReader. I wanted an eReader, and now I have one.  It's great to have th internet on it, right there.  My family loves to DoodleJump on it.  Last week, my uncle, who is a classic business-computer user asked for an iPad demonstration.  I gave him one, and he was wowed by the coolness.  His conclusion was it was not something he NEEDED right now.  It's not for him. 

My teenage niece asked for an iPad demo the same weekend.  She loved the touchiness of it, but was looking for the camera. Then she looked fo iChat on.  It's not for her.

The iPad is a very cool gadget.  It's a device the Apple fan boy/girl HAS to have.  It is a device that the gadget geek has got to have - if only because there is no OTHER tablet.  Owners love them.  I love mine. My wife gives my a hard time because I sleep with it.  I have it with me all the time.  But when my business associates and friends ask me what the hell I do with it, I sheepishly say, …."I... read on it...."  And then I add.. "EVERY NIGHT!"

I am still confident it's coming.  I do believe the solutions are coming.  I wait for the killer apps.  I will keep my iPad with me.


My Macworld 2010 Review

As most Mac fans know, Macworld is the annual get together for the Apple and Mac faithful held every year in San Francisco. More than your typical technology conference, it has a long history of being THE event for Apple users (and fans), who come in from literally every corner world.  It is traditionally an Apple/Steve Jobs love show.  This year, there was a cloud hanging over the show as Apple announced last year that they would not be participating in 2010. The show has never been run by Apple, and the all-things i-Maker decided that they were no longer interested being the largest paying sponsor and exhitbtor at the Fan-Fest.  Since they made that announcement, fear had gripped the Macworld regulars that if Apple bailed on the show, then the community wouldn't come out.  There was much anticipation as to how Macworld 2010 would really do.

Well, I am here to report that the show for the Apple faithful seems just fine to me.  There were 30,000+ attendees, crowding around the expo hall, all lining up to see what Apple treats the various exhibitors were touting.  When you take into account that Apple's market includes computers, iPhones, and music devices, there really seemed to be something for everyone.  It WAS definitively smaller.  With a number of vendors choosing to following Apple's back-out plan, the total exhibitor count drop forced the entire show into once conference hall.  In the recent years past there were two large conference halls, with Apple taking up a HUGE portion of one of them. Even with Apple and a few others not there (Adobe absent was noticeable), the single exhibitor hall felt vibrant.

For my company, xTuple, an Mac friendly ERP software company, attending a show like Macworld may seem a little out of place, right?  Enterprise software, next to the guy who makes the iPod stickers? Or iPod cases? And new Fashion bags for the iPad?  Fortunately, that's not exactly how it goes. IDG, the group that puts the show on, does a nice job of carving off an area where people who have an interest in stuff like Accounting Software and ERP, can all mingle together.  There were a few of us there in the ERP category, and we all appreciate the "Enterprise and Business Special Interest Pavilion".  It brought those business types over to us, and frankly kept the iPod sticker chasers away. Sure we did have to explain "what is ERP" more than once or twice. But we had far more great conversations than bad ones.  Many attendees had "look for business software" on their show agenda. They specifically popped by our booth, and then I would seen them walk down the isle to a competitor's booth, taking notes along the way.  I gave several demo's, which is always interesting on the show floor.  We had customers and partners come by.  . 

One big topic of conversation for us was the availability of iTuple on the iPhone.  More and more we see the community looking for solutions that can go where they go and iTuple is the ideal solution for that environment.  iTuple extends the capabilities of the xTuple ERP CRM functionality by putting all of your customers prospects, general business contacts and to-do's in the palm of your hand.  There is nothing that appeals more to Apple technology user than to be able to really USE your technology. iTuple extends the consumer content sharing benefits of the iPhone to the Enterprise. Now it's not just your movies and music, but your ERP and CRM solutions are far more accessible.  xTuple partner Paladin Logic, the authors of iTuple, had a promotion going on during the show which exponentially increased the number of iTuple downloads from iTunes. It's in the hands of even more xTuplers, today.

I am always pleasantly surprised to speak with Manufacturing companies in particular at Macworld. You may not think of Manufacturing as an Apple sweet spot, but Mac centric manufacturing companies are out there.  Many are running xTuple today. They are always thrilled to find us, and and often relay that they felt abandoned years ago when all the ERP companies fled to the Windows platform. They are happy to see us at Macworld, and happy to hear our customer stories. Similarly I was pleased to be situated in the Enterprise Pavilion next to a Mac native CAD solution! For years CAD has only existed on a Windows platform.  This company is going cross platform like xTuple, but using our same technology footprint, Qt Software.  This is more good news for the Mac in Manufacturing.

As an Apple technology in the Enterprise user myself, I am thrilled to see Apple in more Manufacturing and more businesses in general. It has been exciting for me to see the growth of our Mac customer base as enterprise users all over the world continue to discover the power and depth of xTuple ERP, and how well it runs in a Mac, or mixed environment. xTuple's Apple user base grows every month.  That's more Apple technology in the Enterprise, and a good thing all around.  At the show I saw many signals from Apple directly and those working closely with Apple that the iKing is beginning to take notice of of the permeation of Apple technology in business, particularly in the what they call the SMB (Small Medium Businesses) market.  The SMB space has always been the place where you would be most likely to find Apple products.  As one of the key growth engines in our economy, paying attention to SMB's is crucial. It is working for xTuple. In 2010 and beyond, it looks to be working for Apple technology in the Enterprise as well.

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