An Apple for the enterprise

Here’s how Apple can make inroads into the enterprise market. Apple should make a special iMac model for enterprises that runs a Linux client OS. In the process, Apple would increase its share of the home market as well.

“If you want to sell more computers to the home market, sell more computers to the enterprise market.” That was how a Gartner research analyst answered an inquiry from a representative of a tier-three PC company in October 1995. Makes sense, doesn’t it? If I stare at a Dell computer on my desktop all day at work, Dell will most likely be top of mind when I’m in the market for a home computer. I was thinking of that Gartner moment when I visited one of those hip Apple Computer retail stores and watched two IT professionals go ga-ga over the new iMac personal computer. I asked them what they thought of the machine.

“All things being equal,” the first responded, “I would rather have an iMac on my desk than a clunky PC.” Then the other IT pro chimed in. “But all things are not equal. We are a Wintel shop with no room for iMacs in our organisation.” Just before we parted, the first IT pro mentioned something about moving servers to a Linux environment. And that got me thinking: that’s how Apple can make inroads into the enterprise market.

Apple should make a special iMac model for enterprises that runs a Linux client OS. In the process, Apple would increase its share of the home market as well. Efforts to make an advanced, easy-to-use graphical user interface for Linux — most notably those made by former Apple software evangelist Andy Hertzfeld and Eazel’s Guy Tribble — were ahead of their time. Eazel and its graphical file manager product called Nautilus failed because of market conditions, not product conditions. The enterprise was not ready for broad-based Linux in 1999.

But thanks in part to the long IT spending drought, Linux’s market appeal to CIOs and the enterprise is high. Some say it would be fairly simple for Apple to get a version of Linux to run on the new iMac. The challenge remains in the graphical user interface (and all the back-office stuff like drivers, plug-and-play and networking). But it can be done.

Steve Jobs, if he is serious about making Apple into a feared technology power, should round up the old Eazel players, pay them hoards of money and announce the new iMac Linux machine at this [northern] summer’s MacWorld Conference & Expo.

I wager there are millions if not tens of millions of former Mac users like me who would welcome the move. And buy more Macs for the office and home.

What about you? If Apple introduced a Linux iMac client, would your organisation consider buying it?

Gary Beach is publisher of CIO US. He can be reached at gary_beach@cio.com.

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