Apple announced recently features of its new Mac OS X Server 10.5 (code-named Leopard), which, while filled with consumer-friendly add-ons, has the potential to break out of its small business niche, experts suggested.
? Ease of use According to Alykhan Jetha, president and CEO of Markham, Ont.-based third-party Apple software company Marketcircle, the beta version of the server (set to be released this fall), is very user-friendly. “(Apple’s) business strategy is calling attention to the product’s ease of use. They will use this to try and expand throughout the server world as much as possible,” he said. Leopard’s simplicity should really kick-start it in the SMB business sphere, said Jetha, but Apple will be sticking to the small and medium size business world for a good while, and its steady clients in specific verticals like the science industry. The server runs on Objective-C 2 code, which is backward compatible for the old standard, Objective-C. It also has a more streamlined code structure, according to Jetha.
? Wikis Leopard allows business users to create wikis, while the server stores them (and all the contributed information and process trail). Jetha said that the simple set-up with this wiki option will probably encourage more people in the business space to make use of them. “Wikis can be quite useful in small businesses. You can actually just start using (the Leopard wiki server) — it’s very cool, as set-up of wikis can sometimes be difficult. Here, it’s really easy,” said Jetha. According to Maurice Pelletier, a multimedia specialist with the Edmonton-based Learn Alberta (a provincial educational program that uses multimedia to augment the K-12 curriculum), this seemingly consumer-used toolset could actually prove a good selling point. He said, “More and more people in the enterprise are using stuff like that—they’re creating more and more multimedia things, from podcasts to wikis to graphics. What was once outsourced is now done in-house. iApps, especially, make it really easy, too.”
? Podcasts Another new, Web 2.0-type feature is the Podcast Producer, which allows users to turn record content into a podcast. Pelletier said that this could be useful in the business space not just as a marketing or content distribution tool, but as a way to record meetings or brainstorming sessions for employees unable to attend or mobile workers.
? Price Price is another lure to those outside the enterprise space, according to Jetha. Leopard doesn’t operate on a client access license basis, he said, making the price point very attractive, compared to the often-expensive licensing models favoured by many software vendors. “I’m betting on that it will be a selling point,” he said.
? IT policy Pelletier said that the rules of the enterprise could hold Apple back. “Large enterprise could have a really tough time (with Leopard), what with the policies in place. There are rules surrounding what software and technologies that can be used. It can be difficult to change once you’re on a roadmap,” he said.
? Support According to Stephan Pinheiro, president of the Montreal-based Apple resellers humanIT and Mac 911, Apple can sometimes be a little lacking when it comes to supporting its enterprise customers. While there has been an improvement over the last few years, he said, Apple has struggled with providing budget-friendly and effective support and service.
? Market share Apple also faces an uphill battle in grabbing market share, said Frank Gillett, vice-president and analyst with the Cambridge, Mass.-based research firm Forrester Research Inc. He said that in the company’s surveys of hundreds of IT decision-makers, only a handful (or, sometimes, none at all) said that they used Apple servers, either on the hardware or software side. “It’s just not mass market,” said Gillett. “It’s used by those trying to build something for their departments that have a lot of Macs or small businesses trying a different approach.”