Apple takes a pass on the enterprise prize

For the first time in decades, Apple has a chance to compete in the corporate computing marketplace. But does the company have the chops to take on Microsoft?

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Not every business organization has settled on notebooks, and this is the area in which Apple is the weakest. To succeed in the corporate world, Apple needs to build an expandable/upgradeable desktop Mac that lets IT shops easily upgrade RAM, easily replace the original hard drive, add a second hard drive, upgrade the video, and have at least one free card slot or internal expansion area.

It should also come with a DVI port (and VGA adapter) for an external display. There's no reason why the basic specs shouldn't be similar to those of the iMac. But it needs to sell for $1,000 (without a monitor) with 2GB of RAM and a 120MB hard drive.

In case you're wondering, the iMac is not a good business machine. It's barely upgradeable, and companies can often get more mileage out of LCD displays than they can out of desktop computers. Besides, if either the monitor or the computer needs to be sent in for service, the other piece must be sent, too. The iMac is just not well designed for corporate use.

Getting there?

By now you've probably gathered that there's very little reason to suspect that Apple takes the corporate market seriously. Just the fact that we really don't know what Apple thinks about this is enough to say there's no strategy. Business-oriented strategies aren't secretive. That's a consumer marketing thing.

To make it all happen, Apple would have to design and sell new business Macs with a pricing structure aimed at volume sales. It would have to make a stated commitment to take care of its corporate customers.

In other words, Apple would need to stop looking at corporate computing as a dirty word. The aloofness Apple exudes as a consumer electronics company plays fine to that marketplace, but that doesn't play well in the business-to-business space. IT customers want to be listened to and respected, and they want the company they buy from to innovate products and services that address their needs.

A public move by Apple in this direction would generate a ton of interest. Corporate buyers stake their careers on their purchases. They need to feel the good will.

The truth is that Apple already has the goods, both in terms of the Intel-based architecture and the great operating system software. What it lacks is the hardware packaging and services that would make the Mac a lot more appealing to business users.

Even three years ago, it would have been totally laughable to write about the possibility of Apple being able to carve out a beachhead on the shores of the corporate marketplace. Now even dyed-in-the-wool Windows shops recognize that a small percentage of companies are moving this way, even if they think such companies are nuts.

It wouldn't seem so crazy if Apple had some skin in the game. You've got to play to win.

This article is an advance excerpt from the next issue of Scot's Newsletter, and it is published by permission. Scot Finnie is Computerworld's online editorial director.

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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