The well publicized Xserve clusters at Colsa and Virginia Tech, have helped Apple overcome its reputation as the high-priced option, but it’s the smaller customers that really matter, according to analysts.

An InformationWeek report suggests these big successes in the enterprise market are indicative of a "more significant change in the company's overall product engineering and marketing strategy".

Aberdeen Group's Peter Kastner told InformationWeek: "Apple's high-performance computing wins represent glamour accounts. But the real bread-and-butter customers involve basic server and storage technology.

"Apple doesn't have the support and selling resources any longer to take on the entire global enterprise market. But since the introduction of the Xserve and Xserve RAID, they now have a very good story that they can take to selected markets or to the small and medium-size businesses."

Apple advantage

IDC's Roger Kay said: "Since Apple has long since shaken off any conservative enterprise type of market, they don't have to be as delicate in their technology transitions as the Windows community does.

"They don't have to keep all this legacy stuff around to keep certain customers satisfied. That ends up being an advantage for Apple in one sense – it's able to innovate more quickly because its market will tolerate more innovation."

The small and midsize market is a good target for Apple according to Aberdeen's Kastner, "because Apple's operating system and management out of the box are very simple and straightforward".

Apple may also benefit "because they control the hardware and the software," according to Creative Strategies' Tim Bajarin. "It's hard for the guys on the outside to be able to control their destiny when they take an [operating system] from one company and chips from another," he said.

"Vendors hope that Windows is the unifying factor, but in some cases Windows isn't the only issue. They've got server architectures to deal with, the Linux factor, and IT applications that are more sophisticated than ever before," he added.