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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.

Entries in Mac (5)

Friday
Aug052011

Business vs. Ubiquity: Apple takes Ubiquity (thanks)

Apple is IN the Enterprise.  These days it's not just the spotty appearances in the art department of big companies, its all over.  What's more, the Apple technology is seeping into the enterprise at an accelerated pace.  We all see iPhones everywhere.  We continue to read reports of Apple's growing sales to business.  (Tim Cook points out in a recent Apple earnings call that 75%+ of the Fortune 1000 companies are using or testing iPads and 80%+ are testing iPhones).  Apple brags about it, but they don't seem to be doing a whole to make any changes to leverage the momentum and attack the enterprise.  Any reader of this blog knows I'll go on and on about that topic.  The fascinating thing to me, is that it doesn't seem to matter what Apple does for an "Enterprise Strategy".  Apple is winning anyway.

People are walking in to work with iPhones in their pocket and saying "no thanks" to the corporate Blackberry.  Office workers are pleading for the ability to use their Mac at home to work at home.  As an employer, are you REALLY going to say no to some one asking to work more at home?  The next slippery slope is yielding to those new incoming college hires who look slightly ill when told they are going to have to use Windows machine.  "No Macs Allowed here at work at THIS company"  Really?  Not sure how long you can keep that going.  People have iPads, they are using them anyway.  They WANT to use them for work, as long as they are on line.  This all means more yielding by MSFT's traditional strong hold: corporate IT gatekeepers.  It's happening everywhere, all around us, and Apple is not lifting a finger to "make" it happen.  In fact, they are seemingly taking big steps backwards, in terms of making any kind of official courting of business.

See my previous post “So Long Xserve”.

See this latest Final Cut X bru-ha-ha.  

What do we see in common?  Apple looking at the big business customer on one side, and the masses of ubiquity on the other side, and taking the side of the masses.  Why spend money, resources, and development cycles trying to make individual businesses happy with specific features, when they can continue to perfect their products for the end user?  Why paint in between the lines with a small, expensive fine brush when you could more easily, and with greater reward, paint with a BROAD brush.  What's the penalty?  The "enterprise business" walks?  Apple appears to be saying "so what".  As we are seeing, the enterprise will come back when the end user knocks on his bosses door and pleads his case for the technology enabling product that he can be more productive with.  And who isn't going to be more productive with Apple technology? (Apple haters need not answer).

In a political context, It’s kind of a Libertarian view of the world.  You can try to MAKE things happen (government intervention, government spending) or you can just foster the environment for ALL things to just be allowed to happen (easier regulations, lower corporate taxes), and let nature take its course.  In this "political model" you have to have faith in American ingenuity to engineer, design, and create the best products and services in the world.

In Apple’s case, they ARE the best engineering and design company, creating the products that the masses MUST HAVE.  Sure Apple has had little hiccups, but one cannot deny that Apple products just work, and more often than not, exceed the buyers expectations.  They were a true innovator with the iPhone, and the rest of the world has spent the last four years catching up.  They were first with the iPad 18 months ago, and I am still waiting for threatening competitor.  I have yet to meet some one that tries switching from Windows to Mac and decides to go back.

Monday
Aug302010

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.

Friday
Feb262010

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.



Monday
Feb012010

iPad is here (well, in 60-90 days anyway)

It's here. It's done.  It's been announced. The cat is out of the bag. And now we know what the thing is. iPad.  We have heard Steve's vision.  Here is what I have to say about it.  I was expecting more (I am still expecting more). As an Apple/Mac over-enthusiast, I say, this looks like a nice Gen 1. So nice that I cannot wait for Gen 2. I won't.  I will be jumping in now. Can I order now Apple?  Now?  How about now?

I have been an Apple/Mac junkie since the original Mac back in the 80's. I was back and forth with DOS and Mac and Windows and Mac in the 90's. The iPod brought me squarely back in the fold in '01, but my Apple/Mac fanaticism really exploded with the iPhone. The Mac was my computer back 2007. I also had a separate phone, PDA, and iPod.  Once it was all the iPhone, it all came together.  My great computing and music experience were now my everything, with me all the time.  Over the next few years, all Windows computers in my life were replaced by Macs. Today, I have to admit, I am pretty committed. 

I was at Macworld when the iPhone was announced. It was impressive. It was obvious that it would be a big for the Mac faithful.  It wasn't so clear that it would burst out beyond the Macheads. It wasn't a no-brainer for me.  I had a long term relationship invested in my Palm/Treo. I didn't NEED a replacement. Maybe, when my contract ran out, but let's not get drastic.  But then I touched it. I held it. That changed everything. I couldn't put it down. And once I had one, and actually used it, suddenly it was in the middle of my life, my Apple experience with me all the time. The App Store put it over the top.  The iPhone/Mac combo continues to change everything for me, as it continues to evolve.  I see the iPad as that next evolution.

I read a great article by Troy Jenson in Seeking Alpha on the iPad and the rush to early conclusions on the the new wonder i-Product from Apple. The post is loaded with valid comparisons of the iPad announcement to the iPhone announcement back in 2007.  Even as a fan-boy back then, I did not see the potential. I did not understand. Neither did plenty of others.  I had forgotten all the haters back then, all of the panning. The haters are certainly still around, waiting for the iPad to fail.  Even those eagerly waiting for the iPad found some things to be disapointed with.

Even though it didn't have everything I wanted or predicted (yet), I feel good about it.  I want it. I know it will continue to get better.  Maybe even before the 60 to 90 days are up. More importantly, I am confident it will continue to evolve my overall Apple/Mac experience. I am VERY eager to see how this device works it's way into the Enterprise. I know it will.  More on the iPad in the Enterprise, later.  Now Apple?  Now are you ready for my money? Now?

Sunday
Aug232009

Quickbooks: Who's frustrated?

In my working working world I meet people every day that are using Quickbooks software to take care of the accounting, billing, and inventory adminstration of their business. Most of the companies I speak to are SME's (Small/Medium Enterprises) that are growing and evolving.  Many companies that grow to all kinds of sizes begin their lives running Quickbooks. It's a fine solution to start your business with. It's simple to set up; it's inexpensive, and it is designed for the small business - its pretty easy to use. It's not quite ERP, but it is software that can run your company.

Then you get to be a successful company, and you start to grow. You suddenly have more customers, more suppliers, more orders, and more people who need access to your software. This is the beginning of the end for Quickbooks in your business, your enterprise. Thats usually when I meet them.  Irrespective of what they ask for, when they get to this place what they are looking for is an Enterprise solution.

The Quickbooks user that has hit the wall with Quickbooks is always a frustrated user. They have evolved from their "basic requirement" days, and are not longer caring JUST about simplicity and easy of use.  They want functionality, they want features. They want to add more users. They want reasonable performance for all those users. They want more security around those users. They need and want more, more, more.

The Mac user in particular gets frustrated as his business grows. Quickbooks for Mac is only a single user solution. These users have no Enterprise option, other than to move over to Windows. That is not a very happy forced march for the Mac user.  I love being at Macworld, talking with small business owners, and watching their face as they 'fess up to the fact that the only Windows computers in their company are there for the Quickbooks users. Man, does that cheese them.

Since Quickbooks came back to the Mac in 2003 (after a five year absence), the Mac's version of Quickbooks has perpetually lagged the Windows versions. Just about every year there is a new Quickbooks Windows version; the Mac was getting about the every other year new release rotation. Jeffery Battersby, a regular Quickbooks reviewer in his Macworld Blog points out the biggest and MOST frustrating holes in Quickbooks for Mac 2009 as he has done in past reviews:

1. Credit Card Processing
2. Mult-user Accounts (particularly painful)
3. Cross Platform data files
4. Online bill pay

Intuit walks a delicate balance. Their target audience for Quickbooks is the small company. They have literally millions of customers, many of them single user one person companies who appreciate simplicity over functionality. They need to keep it simple for these users or risk losing out to the competition on that simplicity battleground. Yes, there is competition. While they have done an admirable job staving off Microsoft over the years, today there other companies targeting the smallest companies. There are plenty of little Saas companies popping up everywhere, and MYOB's AccountEdge has been persistent and dedicated player in the Mac market, with an impressive refresh for 2009.

So while they walk this fine line, Intuit does continue to add fucntionality for those companies that push the envelope of the entry level Quickbooks solution. This is where the Quickbooks Enterprise Solutions (Windows only) comes in. On the Mac side, the development energy seems to be put into making the application more Mac like. Mac users appreciate the tight integration with iCal, the Cover Flow view of reports, and the very native Mac look and feel. But the growing Mac user needs more functionality, not a cool shiny new GUI.  I hear repeatedly that this market is frustrated that Intuit appears to continue to ignore them as a real opportunity.

Odd, that the Chairman of the Board of Intuit, Bill Campbell is on the board at Apple. He's been on the board since 1997. Not only does he have this Board relationship with Apple, he worked at Apple Computer in the early years and was CEO of Claris when Claris was bought by Apple. This guy knows Apple, he's been through the Apple laundry for decades. It is curious to me that he stands by Intuit subjugates Apple users to second class status in the small business world. 

Here is the bottom line for Mac users, looking for Accounting and Business software.  For $200, you can get a reasonable solution for a start up business. The pricing for the package is on the lower end of the all of Intuit's solutions, but in line with the Windows equivalent.  Here are a few approximate prices from the Intuit website:

QB Free Online (1 user, 20 customers)
QB Online Basic $10/mo.
QB SimpleStart: $100
QB Pro $200
QB for Mac: $200
QB Pro (3 User) $550
QB Premier (3 User) $1,100
QB Enterprise 30 users: $13,000

If the Mac user wants to move beyond what Intuit offers for the Mac, they have to switch products all together or (shudder) move over to Windows.