Think Equity analyst Jonathan Hoopes says he thinks Apple is preparing for a stronger push into unfamiliar enterprise markets next year.

Looking at Apple's purchase of pro video software provider Proximity he points out: "Proximity's artbox is the de-facto industry standard for next-generation integrated rich media asset management and work flow for the broadcasting industry."

The analyst expects the technologies acquired in the purchase will eventually appear as enhancements not just within Apple's pro server and software, but also within its iLife consumer media bundle.

He writes: "This acquisition supports our thesis — that is, Apple's industry-leading software holds the keys to further computer market share gains and margin expansion."

The analyst thinks the addition of high-end tools from Proximity into Apple's software offering will enhance its appeal among high-end professionals, helping drive the company's enterprise attempt. He reckons between three to five million Mac users are creative pros.

The analyst notes: "Mac OS X is the most widely used UNIX-based open source foundation desktop operating system and it is the only UNIX-based environment that natively runs Microsoft Office. We think Apple's core strength in lifestyle application and must-have form factor design is a key demand driver for Apple products and we believe interoperability with the Microsoft environment (namely Windows and Office) is a key enabler to Apple's 'Switcher' strategy. Furthermore, we see Apple's roots in the open-source community as a key reinforcement of a virtuous cycle."

His comments reinforce some suggestions Apple has recently made regarding its enterprise plans. Mac OS X 10.5 will be a 100 per cent approved UNIX system, and the server version of the operating system has been packed with handy features to make setting up and using servers an absolute breeze.

Apple has said it hopes to target the lucrative back office market with its Xserve, Xserve RAID and Mac OS X 10.5 Server combination.

It also hopes to attract creative professionals and first time server users to its systems, which offer extended support for open standards.

Mac OS X 10.5 Server will ship in spring 2007, at the same time as Mac OS X 10.5 for desktops. It's a little-known fact that Mac OS X Server was the first version of Apple's UNIX operating system to ship.