Former Oracle exec Sebastian Gunningham, hired by Apple to lead the company in a foray against corporate markets, has quit – causing industry-watchers to question Apple's chances in this market.

Gunningham began work at Apple two years ago, but his efforts have engendered little success, at least according to today's report by Business Week's Alex Salkever. Despite this, Apple "remains committed to enterprise computing and is actively seeking a replacement for Gunnigham", Salkever said.

"Can Apple ever escape its desktop perch and march into the data centres of America Inc?" he asks. He points out that Apple currently offers competitive server products and is adequately pitching such new markets as life science and entertainment. The loss of a key executive may be poorly timed.

Salkever addresses some of Apple's achievements across the past two years; the company has responded to critics on price, networking and performance.

Apple still needs to "step up" its technical support and learn more about the needs of enterprise customers, he warns, suggesting too that Apple extend its hardware-service guarantees on products sold into these markets to exceed the industry standard.

It must also convince potential customers of its commitment to the market, though he adds Apple's previously stated revelation that its server products are actually aimed at existing core Apple markets.

Salkever believes that Apple "needs a visible sales boss to energize the troops and close bigger deals"; it needs to persuade potential enterprise customers of its awareness of the needs of big business and offer better support.

"It's a sizable cultural shift, but a necessary one if Apple hopes to play in the competitive corporate-computing market. Now is the time to move," he concludes.