An Open Letter to Apple

Dear Apple,

You have abandoned us and we yearn to forgive you.  That about sums it up in a nutshell.

Of course, this need clarification.  When I said “us”, what I meant by that is your hard-core loyalists.  The people that have been around your products since the 80s and the glorious heydays of the 90s.  The people that are still required to support your products.  The people that now have to maintain an enterprise environment full of consumer goods.

It seems that you have abandoned all ideals pertaining to making your company and your product relevant in a meaningful work-based enterprise environment.  That would be disheartening but forgivable if it weren’t for the fact that we still have users that insist on using nothing but your product.  We are therefore forced to undergo every tweak imaginable to make your products work as seamlessly as possible, but it becomes more and more of a struggle every day.

There have been small steps made by your development team toward this end (Exchange 2007 support in Mail, basic AD integration), but for every step forward you make, you also take five steps back.  Allow me to explain.

As an enterprise IT organization, here is the process all of our systems undergo:

  1. Purchase
  2. Image
  3. Distribute
  4. Maintain
  5. Replace

Now, that first one is a tough one to overlook.  I used to defend your pricepoints to rabid PC users, comparing spec-for-spec against premier systems from Dell and stacking them against your iMac.  I made the point that your company simply doesn’t offer sub-basement quality systems, that it is high-end consumer on up to professional-grade hardware.  I can’t do that anymore for two reasons.

First, it’s not true.  Not anymore, and certainly not in the world of enterprise purchasing.   I will withhold names and dollar amounts, but suffice it to say, I deal with purchasing bulk quantities from a major PC vendor and Apple.  My experience goes thusly with each – I obtain pricing on a more-than-qualified system that suits the needs of our organization.  I then use our standard company discount to tabulate the amount we get based on our vendor-client relationship.  This is the price that I use for onesy-twosey purchases and usually takes about ten percent off retail.  I then take that price to our rep and ask them to recalculate it based on a quantity of several hundred systems and apply a bulk discount.  The number the PC Vendor comes back with is usually about 20% off the initial 10%, so the savings is significant.  Apple?  We’re lucky to get 5%.  Spec-for-spec, dollar-for-dollar, the PCs win every time, hands-down.

The second reason I can’t argue this point any more is that it should be true.  You see, the likes of Dell, HP, etc all have many, many tiers of systems types.  Leaving sub-standard Wal*Mart fodder out of the equation, we still have small-business workstations, enterprise volume systems, high-end workstations, full desktops, high-end consumer systems, all-in-ones, small-footprint “mini” systems, etc.  Within each of these are a myriad of options.  Five processor speeds, ten video chipsets, ten memory arrangements, the list goes on and on and the end result is a system that meets the needs of the organization, no less and NO MORE.

Apple needs to step up to the enterprise plate, back down on both their pricing and their specs.  Or at least, offer a large array of lower-end systems for a large enterprise.  Most of our users want Macs because it is what they are familiar with, and we both recognize and respect that.  They don’t, however, need all that power and all that fancy build design in Apple’s consumer systems.

Additionally, in my list of five processes all of our systems undergo, the remaining 4 line items are all covered by one major thing:  SERVERS.

Apple, you were on the right track with the XServe, but you made a major fatal error.  Instead of making it powerful, you made it pretty.  This goes for your OSX Server product even more.   I would have been happier with a completely command-line-based server OS to manage our Macs as long as it had that stable options that were needed to properly manage and integrate our clients onto our existing Windows and Linux based server environment.  We don’t need it to look like OSX Client, we need it to handle the jobs we throw at it and provide strong documentation to support it.  The documentation for your server features are ridiculous.  I don’t need 75 pages explaining the features of a service as if you were still trying to sell it to me, I need instruction on file locations, terminal commands, and plist editing options if things go wrong.

So what is the solution?  How does Apple get back on track?  I have a few ideas.

  • Hardware:
    • Introducing the new AppleCore product line!  Basic boxes with hundreds of specification configurations, all running the new OSX: AppleCore.
    • AppleCore Servers launched.  Rack-mount 1U systems at a competitive pricepoint and the recognition that you may need a loss-leader to trigger client sales.
  • Software (Clients):
    • OSX: AppleCore is the new Enterprise operating system from Apple.
    • Functionally the same as OSX.6, but with small changes:
      • No keychains.  None.  Zip.  Nada.  This will greatly increase compatibility and communications with AD servers.  Don’t try to make them work better, you had your chance – just get rid of them.
      • Wake-On-LAN standard option, not just wake from sleep, and no LOM crap.
      • Apple Workspace:  an all-in-one app for Mail, Calendaring, Address Book, and tasks.  Tight integration with Exchange, including extensive sharing management, standardized offline folders, and ability to import/export or (ideally) natively read PST files.
      • No App Store, or the ability to turn it off entirely from a server.
    • Introduce license keys and an OSX: AppleCore Server KMS along with OEM licensing.
    • Make it able to run on PC systems.
      • License scheme mentioned earlier allows for strong sales
      • For native running, introduce a standard API for hardware vendors driver writing and introduce a driver repository worth a damn.
      • For virtualization, work with VMWare to make a VMWare Tools package
  • Software (Server)
    • OSX: AppleCore Server
      • Include features that make it not compete with PC server systems, but work with them.  Strong SMB support, NTFS formatting, to include a few.
      • Don’t be afraid to sacrifice aesthetics for functionality.  We don’t need a hundred perfect glossy menus when all those options can be fit in one place.
      • Make Windows Server compatible software.  SCCM snapins, management tools, etc.
      • Proper client imaging support – again, not “pretty”, but rather, “works well”.
      • Forget five-user licenses, just make them unlimited and charge more for the server OS.  Why charge more?  Because, you should also…
      • Make it virtual.  That is, make it so that a Dell server can run OSX: AppleCore Server within VMWare.  We already have servers.  We already have our cabinets set up, we don’t need another five extraneous systems just to support a different class of client.
  • Enterprise client relationships
    • Encourage the ability for customers to have the ability to relay these concerns and have them heard.  I have raised these above points with many people within Apple that I have contact with and they all say the same thing:  “I know, I’ve been hearing that a lot, but there’s no one I can go to to elevate these things”.  Maybe I wouldn’t feel so harshly about this if I knew that Apple had heard me and decided to go a different direction anyway… but the fact that there is no apparent way to get my voice heard as the representative of an organization that wants to include their hardware and pursue hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of annual sales… well, that’s just disheartening.

Apple, I’m about as middle-of-the-road as you can get when it comes to platform loyalty.  I’ve defended your company against most every false accusation I’ve had come across my desk, but your move toward nothing but consumer products and software portals is making it increasingly difficult to do so.

PC guys may not have a leg to stand on when they break out the old “one button mouse” chestnut, but more and more, their points are valid and with nobody to raise them to, I feel abandoned.  I also yearn to forgive.


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