Apple misses enterprise mobile computing chance at MacWorld

Shorn of its leader at what a lot of people in mainstream IT regard as the annual love-in for PC haters, or  MacWorld, where mere mention of the word Windows has attracted jeers and rapid responses, Apple was somewhat up against it to provoke a response to a cruel, ‘I’m a PC’-world.

And yet, with my work hat on, I can’t help feeling somewhat underwhelmed by what’s come out of San Francisco this week. I for one am disappointed that Apple hasn’t decided to make serious in roads into the corporate computing arena.

There’s no technological reason why it couldn’t do if it wanted to.

Now here’s my caveat to the flamers who’ll inevitably dive in: I am a home Mac owner. I own, or should I say have owned, an iMac since 2001; I am on my third generation of iPod and my next MP3 player will be an iPod; I have bought all of my children an iPod as their portable music device; I will go on record right now saying that Jonathan Ive will be regarded as a design genius; I’ll also unabashedly say that iTunes (Windows) version was perhaps one of the key landmark software launches pioneering a viable business model for multimedia on a diffuse basis.

But I really think that Apple left only its consumer heart in San Francisco.

In the credit-crunched mainstream IT world, DRM-free songs on iTunes–which let’s not forget an increasing number of companies have prevented access to–doesn’t really mean that much.

And you could; say it wasn’t meant to. But given that this is ComputerWeekly here; my job is to look at what’s in it for those involved in IT management. And again for the record, the new iWork ’09, the latest version of Apple’s office productivity suite, has functionality that any enterprise, big or small would gain business benefit from.

Keynote ’09 on paper at least look an excellent alternative for those who may feel they are in PowerPoint prison; looks like it could turn a very interesting collaboration tool and potentially exactly the sort of thing required that companies who are having to extend their reach to remain competitive, offering people in disparate locations the chance to upload documents and have others to view them and comment about them, online.

Even better, users have the option of downloading a copy of their document to al of the major document formats used in the corporate world that is iWork, Microsoft Office or PDF format.

But here’s the rub: iWork ’09 requires Mac OS X version 10.4.11 or Mac OS X version 10.5.6. That wonderful, potentially business enriching capability is destined only for those with a Mac.

One of the key reasons that I have owned a Mac for so long has been what I feel is the superior functionality and ease of use offered by Mac Office compared to the corresponding Windows version.

Again speaking as a Mac owner, I’m not saying that making a Windows version of iWork would be as successful as iTunes for Windows but it would have been a great stake in the corporate ground.

The other big news concerned the launch of the new 17-inch MacBook Pro featuring a high resolution LED-backlit display and the same large glass Multi-Touch trackpad introduced with the new MacBook in October 2008 but also, most significantly, a new built-in battery that claims to deliver up to eight hours of use and up to 1,000 recharges for more than three times the lifespan of conventional notebook batteries.

In other words, the machine is perfect for those mobile computing professionals who are currently hampered by the relatively short battery life of mainstream laptops. This should mean that you’ll be able to work all through, if you so chose, a flight from London to Chicago or Dubai.

And yet…things just jar. The machine will ship at the end of January 2009 for a suggested retail price of £1,949. Now I’m certainly not going to criticise the innovation contained on the machine–far from it, I regard it as admirable–but how many companies are going to sign off nigh on £2000 for a laptop these days?

What will be the  corporate business case for the mainstream IT professional who could pick up an admittedly lower specced 17-inch windows laptop for about £500 less if indeed they’d be able to do that anyway?

With its new battery technology Apple has solved one, if not the, most important gating factor for mobile computing: available power. If Apple can get this type of power performance into the more mainstream laptops it’s got a real chance of competing for the mobile computing buck which, unlike most things, will be pretty robust his year despite everything.

And a part of a New Year’s resolution pick up the phone and call the major telcos and get their latest USB dongles Mac-compatible on launch. Here’s what it says on Vodafone’s home page right now, 16:15 GMT on 7 January 2009: “The Vodafone K3760 is the latest USB Stick, specifically designed for Vodafone with software available for Windows PC operating system…” And it’s even white and would look better on a Mac in any case.

Right, think I need to go home and download some soothing music from my iMac to my iPod…