Apple IS in the enterprise – if you know where to look

Just once I’d like to see Steve Jobs unveil a hot new product at MacWorld and watch the audience boo.

I actually did hear some boos at MacWorld once, but that was in 1997, when Bill Gates announced a US$150 million cash infusion from Microsoft to help Apple. Ever since that time, from the introduction of the first iMac to this week’s MacBook Air, the popular reaction to Apple’s product launches has become predictable even if the products themselves are not. First, like fashionistas at a runway show, everyone gasps in astonishment. They may not use words like “fabulous,” but they come pretty close. Then follows some nit-picking over what was left out and some dithering over pricing and availability. Then, when you run out of everything else to say, a few people wonder about how well the Apple product might fit in the enterprise.

It may be time to stop wondering.

If an enterprise employs someone with an average affinity for consumer electronics, Apple is already in the enterprise. True, its Xserve line may not have caught fire with CIOs, but Apple has realized it’s not in the business of pleasing CIOs. It’s in the business of pleasing users – an attitude more CIOs might want to consider if they want to keep their projects on schedule and under budget.

What Apple does, and which CIOs and IT departments routinely fail to do, is generate a sense of excitement about upgrading their technology. Its hardware and software choices show a real sense of what matters to people, from environmental features in the MacBook Air to interface choices in the iPhone. It makes its products look beautiful, when business users are condemned to the utilitarian. It acts as though aesthetics and usability are not simply a nice-to-have but an imperative. And it’s right.

Apple behaves as though it can’t conceive of a user who would resist its technology, who wouldn’t welcome the chance to be empowered to make their own movies, music and videos. Forget about soft skills for a minute. Apple demonstrates on a regular basis that it sees users as creative mavericks who can achieve great things. How many IT managers look at their users the same way?

Here’s an exercise for you: imagine you’re Steve Jobs, and you’ve been put in charge of deploying an enterprise resource planning system in your company, or some other major IT project. Think of how he would command the stage, how he would make the ERP system or other project appear like something important, rather than something merely necessary. Dream about what it would be like for your projects to receive the kind of adulation Apple can take for granted at every MacWorld Expo. Then aspire to make your dream come true.

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