What can Apple teach us about Enterprise IT? Apple and Enterprise IT, words which don’t really belong in the same sentence but perhaps we can learn quite a lot about the future of Enterprise IT by looking at Apple and its current strategy.
Firstly, like many geeks I must admit to having a very uneasy relationship with Apple and it’s products; I still keep thinking style over substance, overpriced and under performing kit. So why is my laptop of choice a MacBook, why do I own an iPhone and an iPad? Why am I looking forward to June 7th and Steve’s keynote where he’ll certainly announce a new iPhone?
Like it or not, Apple’s stuff just works; my MacBook boots up in the half the time of my Windows Laptop (actually it’s even faster since I put an SSD in it), applications just work; hardware and software work in harmony because they have been designed in concert to work together. I don’t measure TCO for my home kit but the time I save with at least one piece of kit which just works is great. It gives me the time to hack about with Linux, ESX and Windows. And of course, hidden under the covers, there beats the heart of the ultimate geek operating system, Unix!
And then there’s the iPhone and the iPad; Apple have taken control-freakery to extremes; even telling you what languages you can develop in and then controlling the method of distribution and if Steve doesn’t like it, it isn’t coming in. But the app-store is so unbelievably convenient; installation of applications is just a tap away and despite the fact that Steve’s control-freakery is simply wrong, I still happily use the devices and ignore that nagging voice in the back of mind.
Sure Apple’s stuff is more expensive but it just works; it’s a fairly sad indictment that to get stuff that just works, we are willing to pay more but that appears where we are at the moment. Apple have developed the iBlock or various iBlocks; perhaps quietly and subconsciously, various strategists in the Enterprise Industry have been influenced by this seductive idea that things should just work?
People are getting used to the idea that there’s an app for everything and it’s simply a tap away to get. Our users are getting used to this on the iPhones and now their iPads; we can expect that they are going to ask why they first can’t get the same service for their desktops and eventually for their enterprise servers. And they’ll just expect everything to work and work *now*.
But a word of caution and take this from the voice of experience; Apple’s TCO in a heterogeneous environment soars, it is painful to get it to work with anything else. It wants to do everything it’s own way and plays very begrudgingly with others. If you need to do something slightly out of the ordinary, you will struggle to do so.
Apple is great as long as what you do is what Apple wants you to do in the what it wants; which is why it will always struggle in the Enterprise. Let’s hope that the various Enterprise stack vendors learn both the positive lessons from Apple but also take account of the downsides.