Apple should be pushing its Mac OS X software aggressively into corporations running Windows, says a Microsoft solution provider in Massachusetts, but others claim that Apple might be missing a trick in this market, which it knows little about.

Although Apple has always offered support for Windows, "only in the last few releases has the compatibility reached a point where it can be used practically to plug and play Apple pieces into a Windows network," explains Technology Execution Network president Michael Healey.

He told CRN: "The latest versions of the Unix-based Mac OS X operating system significantly enhances the ability for the Mac client and server to integrate with Microsoft's Active Directory and Windows server environment.

"Windows support has been there for some time, but people weren't convinced that they worked together. Now they do. The compatibility was there technically before but now it's usable."

Bay Digital service engineer Anson Pham said: "We can always get a Mac on the network, but for Outlook and calendaring the Mac was always the bastard child. But 3.5's Active Directory support and the new Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac closes those gaps and builds that bridge."

Apple will take interoperability between the two systems one step further with the next version of the Mac OS X operating system. New features in Tiger will include an enhanced ability to authenticate against Microsoft Active Directory – the software will offer better NTLM integration so Mac users can use passwords in Windows environments.

Of these interoperability features, Apple director of system software product marketing Brian Croll said: "It allows us to sell Mac clients and servers better in the Windows environment and opens up new opportunities for those in the Mac world because administration is so much easier."

Croll added: "Apple will also integrate a Windows NT migration tool in the upcoming Tiger Server to enable NT customers to easily migrate to a Mac OS X environment. Active Directory is important and we see a lot of people still using NT who see a pretty big transition ahead of them."

Winning over Windows

Healey said: "The interoperability improvements planned for the next major Mac OS X Version 4 upgrade can mean lucrative consulting gigs for Apple and Microsoft partners, and can translate into financial and competitive gains for both vendors."

But while Apple has pushed interoperability between Windows and Mac, some dealers don't think the company has gone far enough. Bay Digital's Pham said: "Marketing that message makes sense, and I can see that happening but Apple doesn't know enough about it to push it."

Apple specialist Tekserve's Matthew Cohen said: "Mac OS X has a strong argument for organizations that are heavily vested in Microsoft workflow because it can complement those environments well. It is a great opportunity for Apple to jump in and play with those organizations, but are people selling it that way? Probably not. Apple doesn't charge for client access licenses. We have some sales reps approaching this slowly and we're talking to customers, financial institutions and traditional businesses we can get involved. But we're just feeling it out."