Is Apple Aiming for the Enterprise Now?

Shiny glass like image of an appleOne of the things that comes up from time to time is the dominance of Windows and dearth of OS X in the Enterprise. It is no less true now than it has been in the past... OS X is not a major presence in business and in particular big business. In the past, Apple made overtures toward the business market with their Xserver and Xsan products, but those have been discontinued, leaving only the Mac Pro as the high horsepower OS X server of choice and the Mac Mini as the budget oriented OS X server platform. What does this mean for Apple in the Enterprise? Not much, or at least nothing different than what they have always been. Still, a few interesting tidbits came up during Tim Cook's presentation that makes one wonder if Cupertino hasn't kept business market share plans somewhere in their back pocket.

We Want More

In previous keynotes, there hasn't typically been a global interest in discussing overall install base for the Mac. There has been discussion of laptop install base because that has historically been a strong point for Mac sales relative to the rest of the industry. But desktop sales have typically not been mentioned prominently. To be fair, Tim Cook didn't really go into desktop sales specifically but he did discuss overall install base very prominently during the opening of the keynote. And more importantly, he stated "there are still 70% of people buying something else. We still have a lot to do."

Now, no CEO is ever going to state "We have plenty of customers, we don't need any more." They would be kicked out of their posh office and deservedly so. They might even have to forego their golden parachute. But looking backwards, this sort of aggressive discussion of expanding the overall user base has been atypical of Apple. Surely they have always wanted to expand their hardware sales but it hasn't been discussed so matter of factly before. That makes it interesting, but that alone isn't what got me to thinking about business sales.

We Have More

During the discussion of iPad statistics, they pointed out 92% of Fortune 500 companies are looking at the iPad for internal use. I have to agree with Mr. Cook, that is remarkable. Of course, they're naturally going to mention things which put the iPad in a positive light, and the fact that the iPad is the dominant tablet at the moment means there is plenty to talk about. Still, it is striking to me that there is such an emphasis on business uptake of the iPad.

Combine this with the other factoids, uptake in the medical industry, the recent adoption by some airline pilots to reduce the number of physical books they have to carry with them, the 95% overall satisfaction rate with iPad users, and you have a serious reason to think that the iPad, and Apple by extension, is going to end up firmly entrenched within the business sector.

But Wait, There's Still More

Finally, there is another interesting piece of information that was shown; satisfaction rates for smartphone users. At the top of the heap was Apple with the iPhone. Noticeably missing from anywhere near the top of the heap? RIM's BlackBerry. Personally, I have seen a large number of our clients shift from BlackBerry to iPhone or Android phones, with a bias toward the iPhone. RIM's BlackBerry phones are, of course, known for being the phone for business professionals with presumably superior communication technologies. But with that low a satisfaction rate among RIM customers, at least some of them have to be switching. And what are they switching to? No doubt some of them are heading to iPhones. Toss in the fact that RIM entered the tablet war with disastrous consequences and you have a recipe for many dissastified business professionals turning toward Apple products.

So where does that leave things? Apple has been using the halo effect to push sales of each item of hardware through popular usage of other pieces of hardware. While the iPhone has been popular, the iPad is taking it to a whole new level, especially in the business sector. The fact that Apple is taking note of their overall market share, both in mobile and on the desktop, suggests they are aware of the overall position and that they can have a place in business. They haven't given up on OS X Server as a product and might yet reintroduce server hardware but in the meantime can continue to work toward presence on the desktop at the small and enterprise business levels. I don't purport to know what Apple is planning but it certainly seems like they have an eye on what could be.


iPhone 4S – Did You Expect a 5?

Shiny glass like image of an appleThe Wall Street Journal, and others, seem to be bummed that Apple announced the iPhone 4S without the expected hoverboard and dishwashing upgrades. Apparently, having a faster processer, faster graphics chip, support for both GSM and CDMA on the same device, more capacity, sharper camera, incredible voice control capability, support for faster downloads via HSPA+ along with an extra letter 'S' wasn't enough.

The fact is that for any other device, the hardware bump from iPhone 4 to iPhone 4S would represent sufficient advances as to warrant a version bump, no sweat. But because of the expectations which Apple has built up around their devices, it is almost inevitable that they can't keep up with expectations. In the weeks leading up to today's announcement, blogs and news sites trotted out lede after lede baiting users with tantalizing might-be's and possible could-have's. Some were spot on, some missed the mark. Regardless, there was precisely one voice missing from the hype machine. Yep, Apple. Apple made no grand pronouncements other than that it would be about iPhones. There were bits and pieces which we could glean from their activities and from various leaks (perhaps some more astroturfy than others but still) but nothing that set expectations terribly high. Some even surmised that some of the news leaks just prior to today's Apple announcement were intentionally leaked by Apple in order to lower expectations that were running rampant leading up to the iPhone 4S unveiling. And given how many Debbie Downers are disappointed in the hardware bump, I can hardly blame Apple for wanting to set expectations lower.

Jazzed About the iPhone 4S

To be honest, while I'm appreciative of all of the enhancements, it's the GSM/CDMA on a single device on top of availability on Sprint that I'm most jazzed about. Because of the support for both cell protocols, the iPhone is being called a world phone, which is now a fair statement. It now means that I can take my phone to whichever carrier I desire to take it to, without having to worry about the hardware inside which tied it to one set of carriers or another. It adds the element of freedom that has been missing with the iPhone since it was first released. And while I haven't had an opportunity to check for myself, Sprint is known for having lower data and voice plan rates. I don't know if that will translate to lower rates for iPhone users, but if so, that might apply a little additional downward pressure on fees that have only gone up since the iPhone's debut. I wasn't considering myself to be in the market for a phone upgrade but I might take a look at what Sprint will offer and, if it makes sense to do so, make the switch.

Really, there is a lot to love with this upgrade. If you can't find something that at least piques your interest, you aren't trying very hard. It seems strange to hear people complaining that they didn't get the toy they weren't promised in the first place and instead have to settle for the toy that is still clearly better than what they already have. I suppose, though, that it speaks volumes about the popularity of Apple and what people expect from their design team.


The Best Programming Tool… Ever

The best programming tool I've ever used was a whiteboard with dry erase markers. When I worked for IBM, we had a team of, oh, about 10 or so developers working on an internal project with usage spanning the globe. We turned out tight code on a tight schedule and we did it with relatively few errors and hell if we didn't come in under budget, just for kicks. We had a really great team of developers but one thing which I think had a big impact was having a huge whiteboard in every. single. office.

We were, at the time, technically part of the services division, even though we had absolutely no outside contact with customers. We provided purely internal benefit through our software. In a nutshell, we wrote the ticketing and billing software for the maintenance and support services for IBM. When you called IBM for support on your AS/400, we were the ones responsible for tracking that little guy and making sure you were billed appropriately. This involved working with several systems and a home brewed database (it was some time before we completed our migration to DB/2) but it was well done. We didn't get many complaints.

I don't know if it was due to being part of the services division or if it was something IBM was doing as a whole (I suspect the latter) but at the time, we were undergoing a management shift as well as a process management shift. Our management shift was moving to matrix management where projects had business managers and individuals had HR managers so you were reporting to two entities and.. well.. the less said the better. The process management involved weekly meetings, lots of status updates and tons of charts. But in spite of all of this, the whiteboard kept us on time and under budget.

Each office held two developers (or architect or team lead, whatever). The wall as you walked in was taken up by a massive whiteboard with two or three dry erase markers plus an eraser and maybe some whiteboard cleaner. You had to go the breakroom and grab some paper towels if you wanted to actually use the stuff.

Anyway, we used the hell out of those things. You could walk into any office and immediately know what they were working on by checking out the edges of the board, where long term task lists were kept. But the big plus were the middle areas, where technical notes and diagrams were kept. We would do object designs and data flows and leave them up for a month or so until things were complete. Need a gigantic scratch pad to work out the logic for your module? No problem, just stand up and walk over to the whiteboard and write down the contents of your mind.

Perhaps the lone problem was lack of space. Make no mistake, these whiteboards were huge, wide enough to span two cubicles. Still, if the problem was sticky enough, you wanted, nay, needed more space. And of course you were sharing with your officemate, so you had to be mindful of what space they needed. As it happened, we had a few extra rooms where we could use whiteboards unfettered by occupancy restrictions. It was a wonderful time.

Since then, I have been to many locations and seen many team sharing arrangements. The supremacy of the whiteboard has typically received at least a nod in the form of a shared whiteboard in a common area but never was worshipped as it was when I was at IBM.

Things have probably changed since then. Times certainly have. There are whiteboard software applications that allow users to draw to a shared space on their computer, but it's not the same. Using a mouse to try to draw programming diagrams and notes is like trying to build a ship in a bottle using salad tongs. And if you have a Wacom tablet or similar device you're probably not the focus of this post. No, there is no substitute for the real thing. The whiteboard is the king of programmer tools. Long live the king!