Macs Need More Ported

By John Rizzo  |  Posted 2006-03-30 Print this article Print

News Analysis: After 30 years of consumer success, Macs are better integrated into business systems than ever before, but Apple still isn't trying to woo a reluctant enterprise market.


Overcoming the burden of not being Windows is not entirely up to Apple. The Mac's dependence on third-party developers is acutely felt when the Mac functions as an Exchange client.

March's 11.2.3 update of Microsoft Exchange 2004 added important features, including the ability to sync calendars and contacts with Mac OS X's built-in Address Book and iCal programs.

But Microsoft's Entourage still doesn't have the features available to Outlook for Windows, including the support of the Microsoft MAPI (Messaging API) protocol. And performance remains a problem.

"Compared to Entourage X [the previous version], the current Entourage is great. Compared to Outlook, it's a lousy Exchange client," Edge said. "If you're looking at a lot of messages, you're looking at a lot of beach balls."

The spinning beach ball cursor is the Mac equivalent of the Windows hourglass, indicating an unresponsive application.

There are also holes that third parties don't fill, mostly in the areas of vertical applications and in-house Web-based applications.

The problem of the lack of software is a classic chicken-and-egg scenario. Having more applications running on Macs would enable companies to deploy more Macs, which, in turn, would increase the incentive for developers to port software to the Mac. But Apple isn't doing much to change the status quo.

"Apple doesn't cater to the enterprise market," Edge said. "It makes really good computers, and if enterprises want to use it, that's okay with Apple. I can't image Apple co-funding companies to make a Mac client."

One way Mac users have been able to get around this problem is through the use of Microsoft's Virtual PC to run Windows software not available to Mac OS X. Because Virtual PC emulates an x86 processor, performance is not good, but Virtual PC does do Windows networking well.

Paradoxically, the Intel Macs currently have less functionality at running Windows than the PowerPC Macs. That's because Microsoft's Virtual PC doesn't run on the Intel Macs. Although there is now a hack for booting Windows natively on the Intel Macs, it doesn't have the support for the Mac's hardware and peripherals that is found in Virtual PC on PowerPC Macs.

In January, Microsoft indicated interest in porting Virtual PC to Intel Macs, but did not announce a schedule. But with Apple now becoming a member of BAPCO (Business Applications Performance), an industry Windows benchmarking group, it looks like Apple may be working on its own Windows virtualization environment.

Perception is everything

One thing that Macs have going for them is a reputation for being better from a security standpoint. Apple frequently releases security patches, including two in the month of March; but except for the recent low-risk Leap-A virus, Mac OS X malware hasn't appeared.

However, bad experiences die hard. Part of the problem of getting the Mac into the enterprise has to do with memories of old incompatibles and the traffic-inducing AppleTalk protocol, which the Cupertino, Calif., company has successful phased out.

"Legacy IT staff sees an Apple computer as messing up their network, bringing down performance of the network," Edge said. "It's a lack of education from IT staff that's holding it back."

Edge said he thinks that Apple's transition to Intel processors could change the misperceptions. Replacing the PowerPC processor for an Intel processor doesn't solve the problems of network compatibility, but it does add a certain amount of trust to the platform. It's a touchy-feely perception of a brand image, the kind of feeling that Apple has been successful at exploiting during the past 30 years.

Check out eWEEK.com's for the latest news, reviews and analysis on Apple in the enterprise.


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