Could Apple be Stealing a Page from Microsoft

Recently, I wrote an article on how Apple is following Pixar’s roadmap for success called “Geri’s Game.” It was a look at how I believe Steve Jobs is applying what he’s learned at Pixar to Apple’s business strategy. Now I’d like to take a look at some of the new features of OS X 10.2 Jaguar that Apple recently showed off at the Worldwide Developer’s Conference, WWDC. ‘Cause I think those features might be revealing how Apple is also going to steal a page from Microsoft’s playbook and use it to continue Apple’s success.

Microsoft is the undisputed master of gaining market share. Even if Bill Gates doesn’t know what market share is, they sure know how to gain it. I’m wondering if Apple might be using Microsoft’s own strategy against them? If you step back and look at some of the features of Jaguar, it seems to be pointing towards that very thing.

Apple Isn’t Resting

OS X 10.0 was, we’ll let’s face it, more beta like than final release. It wasn’t until OS X 10.1 that it became truly useable. Since that time, many users have become more and more enamored with this truly great operating system. Not just dyed in the wool Mac users, like you and I but also Windows users (40% of the new Macs sold at Apple’s retail stores are former Windows users.) but also with the likes of programmers and even Linux fans can’t deny the power of OS X. Apple’s recent WWDC announcements show that despite the slow start for OS X 10.0, it is continuing to build on the momentum from the release of 10.1.

OS X 10.1 and its various updates finally garnered Apple some laurels for their efforts. More and more of them as more and more people discover this wonderful operating system. It was about time both for Apple and for us loyal users. Though 10.1 was much faster and began to add some features there was still more to come and further to go for Apple.

The announcements that have been coming out of WWDC show that Apple isn’t resting on its initial laurels. The next release of OS X will prove to be even more stable, even faster and add features that will give it network parity like we haven’t seen since Apple introduced businesses to the concept of networking with AppleTalk. Apple’s vision of networking lost out first to Novell, which in turn fell to Microsoft’s enterprise efforts.

Apple Embraces Microsoft

Back when Bill Gates appeared onscreen via Satellite at MacWorld, looming ever so eerily like a certain 1984 Super Bowl commercial it’s been pretty obvious that for the most part, Apple has chosen to adopt the ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’ way of thinking. Rather than fight against Microsoft head on, Apple has pretty much let Microsoft set the standards. It would quite easily drain every resource Apple has if they were to try to go head to head with Microsoft. That doesn’t mean that Apple is lying down, they just know that they long ago lost the platform wars, at least as we know them. OS 7, OS 8, OS 9 and its legacy connection to the original Macintosh, could never compete with the Titan that MS has become. OS X 10.1 changed that.

When I was working on a huge MS Enterprise Network, it was fantastic to finally connect my Mac to any of the Windows File Servers or even my company issued PC. 10.1 introduced SMB connections and it was great. Connecting to servers and shares on an equal footing with PCs was wonderful with 10.1.

Jaguar further introduces features that adopt Microsoft’s existing standards. 10.2 (the assumed numeration of Jaguar) will allow Macs to see and be seen with virtually complete parity as it introduces SMB browsing to the OS along with file sharing with PCs. Additionally, the mail program that ships with OS X will be much more feature rich and will include the ability to connect to Exchange servers. OH BABY! Not only that but we’ll also see the introduction of Virtual Private Networking abilities to OS X. That means that there will no longer be an excuse for you to have to use a PC at home to connect to your work’s network for email or for files. Apple is building in features that will break down the barriers that have long been associated with using Macs in a Windows World. Ahhhh, Freedom!

There is a Familiar Ring to all this

I don’t know about you but doesn’t this seem like something that Microsoft used to do? Microsoft’s “Embrace and Extend” policy of adopting technology is pretty infamous. I have a funny feeling that Apple might be doing the same. By adopting Microsoft’s own standards, Apple is going to make it darn near impossible for these barriers between the platforms to prevent you from using your Mac in the corporate world.

That’s the Embrace, Now the Extend

Look at the effect the original iMac had on Design. The original iMac did away with the floppy disk and even now, Intel has announced it wants to do away with it. The iMac introduced the computing world to the joys of USB. Suddenly, big PC manufacturers are also introducing computers without the old legacy connections. Apple introduces FireWire and suddenly transferring large amounts of data is fast, simple and hot pluggable and not only has the computing industry adopted it so has digital camcorders and even home entertainment is picking up the ball and running with it. Despite Microsoft setting the standards in the corporate market Apple still pulls a lot of weight in the computer industry. That means there is a real possibility for success of technologies Apple introduces and adopts.

Rendezvous is one of those technologies that Apple is adding to Jaguar. Rendezvous is a fantastic technology that will search out on an IP Network and track down all the shares and network aware devices available to you. Rendezvous extends the SMB and Exchange additions to OS X to make Macs that much more useful on a network. Suppose your neighbor in the next cubicle has a folder of World documents shared? No worries, Rendezvous will go out and find those kinds of shares for you, automatically. That means, no back slashes, or paths to remember, your Mac has already found it for you! (Not to mention your neighbor’s folder of mp3s!)

Combine Rendezvous with Apple’s adoption of other cross platform abilities like, LDAP, ActiveDirectory and other MS and Enterprise Networking standards and we begin to see how very powerful Rendezvous will be to the Mac OS in an Enterprise Environment.

Even if your IT/IS guys tell you, “We won’t support your Mac!” it won’t be a real worry. You’ll be able to connect it to the network and it will virtually set itself up. Your PC using neighbor will ask you how you found and connected to all those shares and will want to do the same. You’ll just tell them your Mac did it automatically. Your PC using neighbor will wonder why their Windows machine can’t do that. Talk about generating interest in the platform.

The last software feature that I wanted to mention in this next release of OS X is iChat. iChat itself is no real revolution. After all, many companies offer online instant messaging. What is revolutionary about iChat is that it is the first to be officially compatible with AOL’s instant messenger. Combine it with Rendezvous and it truly extends networking by creating for you a local area network buddy list. Add to that, drag and drop file sharing and you have a very compelling networking tool. Instant messaging tools are in fact becoming very popular in the enterprise field. What was once the sole domain of AOL junkies has become a wonderful tool in the corporate world. Expanding the levels of communication even further and making communication even more immediate in this constantly changing world of tech.

Now if all of the above helps Apple truly break into the enterprise market there was one more announcement at WWDC that will also help extend these Apple technologies. That announcement is summed up in just three little words, Rack Mounted Servers! This is truly big for Apple to introduce.

If Apple’s combination of additions to Jaguar truly helps Macintoshes break into the enterprise market, IT/IS is going to need a way to push out software, updates as well as monitor those Macs. I suspect that we’ll see Apple’s servers will offer real bang for the buck in three different levels just like PowerMacs are offered now. Allowing IT departments to offer official support for these renegade Macs for very little money. Then, as adoption progresses Apple will be ready with two more levels of servers allowing for service from minimal to monstrous.

Honestly, I suspect that the past failure of Apple and even NeXT has left an impression on Steve Jobs. Pixar’s slow but Apple has certainly adopted Pixar’s very steady rise to greatness by focusing on doing what you do best. Now, in one of the most competitive industries, Apple is not only willing to adopt Not Invented Here technologies but if these forthcoming updates are any indication, we’ll also see that Apple is willing to adopt business strategies they didn’t invent. Even if that success means stealing a page from Microsoft’s playbook.

When pressed about stealing the Graphical User Interface from Xerox, Steve Jobs is famous for quoting Pablo Picasso, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” Maybe Steve is finally applying that same concept to Apple’s business strategy as well.

Bob McCormick

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