Three and a half years ago in this space I wrote, "Today, there's no reason for IT managers to consider the Mac in their product plans, which is appropriate since Apple doesn't think of them either."
I was wrong.
The truth today is far different. Apple's technology is not just a credible choice for corporate IT. It's often the most cost-effective and best-performing option. You just don't know it because, in some measure, analysts and journalists covering enterprise computing wrote off Apple a long time ago.
Consider the following exercise: Visit Computerworld.com and type "OS X" into the search engine. As of last week, that would have turned up 340 hits. One of our competitors, InformationWeek.com, delivers a paltry 64. A query for "Windows XP," a newer operating system than Mac OS X, yields 871 results on our site; our competition gets you a mere 374. A search on "Linux" provides 3,222 and 1,549 hits, respectively. What this tells me (besides that Computerworld has vastly better coverage than the other guys) is that IT journalists tend to overlook Apple's technology.
Many CIOs subscribe to analyst firms' research to get the lowdown on vendors' technology in order to make informed choices about how one company's products will fit into their overall IT plans. You've got a cornucopia of options for in-depth analysis on Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Microsoft and Sun Microsystems, but precious little strategic analysis on Apple and its offerings.
But yammering reporters and analysts aren't the only ones to blame for a lack of IT-related coverage of Apple. Fingers must also be pointed at 1 Infinite Loop, the company's Cupertino, California, headquarters. Like its pretentious address, Apple's haughty attitude simply annoys people. Microsoft has never been known for its modesty either, and can certainly be irksome. But it will bend over backwards to get you product information, particularly about future plans. So much so, it's considered the world leader in FUD – the fear, uncertainty and doubt it inspires throughout the industry as it details what's on its drawing boards is more than enough to make IT managers hesitate before moving to another vendor's technology. But one IT manager's FUD is another's strategic planning tool.
Apple, in contrast, has mastered the art of FAPP – forget Apple for product planning. The company's "loose lips sink ships" attitude works well for its consumer market, where pre-announcing a cool new gadget can kill the sales of your suddenly has-been widget. But in the serious world of corporate IT, CIOs seldom make infrastructure investments without a deep understanding of a vendor's long-term strategy. And Apple refuses to reveal much, if anything, about its plans.
That's a real shame, because with the Xserve, Apple is delivering one of the most powerful, low-cost, easy-to-manage Unix servers on the market. But you probably don't have any in your shop because when Apple announced the Xserve in 2002, you really didn't know how committed the company was to the product line, since it refused to talk futures. And you certainly didn't know about the 50 advanced management features it'll ship for them next month. Combined with Apple's no-client licensing fees, easy-to-run Xserves would have been the best-performing, lowest-TCO machines in your data center. But you didn't know that, so you bought more Linux, Solaris or Windows systems instead.
Certainly, the IT media's indifference to Apple has hurt the company's standing with CIOs. But Apple's obsession with secrecy has diminished it and IT's technology options even more.