Everyone who knows me, knows I love everything Macintosh, and even in the dark days of Classic MacOS, I still did not give up and praise WindowsNT as the greatest of operating systems. The truth is that Apple makes great consumer products. The iMac was about packaging and catering to the consumer and since then Apple has excelled at giving consumers what they want in nice shiny products like the iPod and MacBook. However, after being in the business world for ten years, I have picked up a thing or two about the business world and just how this particular market segment works, and I must admit that Apple just does not get business users.
When I read statements about how Apple is poised to take over and reach critical market share growth, I cannot help but think these columnists are simply deluded. Apple will never reach a major market share without giving business users the solutions that they need. As much as I love the new Black MacBook, it is not a good business solution. In the world of business, you do not buy a laptop based on what color it is or how cool it looks, you buy it because it fulfills your needs and is cheap. Toshiba, Dell, HP, and Lenovo all have business class laptops that can be had for $699. Sure these laptops are not as nice as the MacBook, but in the business world, the boss does not care. In business, the boss gets a great MacBook Pro, and the rest of his staff will have to do with Dell Latitudes.
Being more expensive is just one of the problems Apple faces in penetrating the business world. The main issue boils down to complete solutions. Business needs reliable support, planning, and software.
With Windows, you can get support everywhere and anywhere. If you run Mac OS X, most support technicians will recoil in ignorance and question why you even have a Mac. This is a huge problem for businesses who take it for granite that they can hire or farm out support to almost anyone, since everyone knows Windows. What Apple needs to do is to really offer business users separate support and asure them that they can get on-site support if they need it. This is easier said than done.
The next step is better planning. There has to be better and more frequent documentation of Mac OS X and Apple hardware. While Mac OS X gives users plenty of powerful tools like PHP, Apache, MySQL, it has also given users, programmers, and companies plenty of problems. Like the way SMB Shares work differently on each version of OS X, or the way OS X has developed with some APIs changing throughout the process. Apple needs to be consistent and help their customers plan for these changes.
Last we have software itself. Even with the abundance of OS X apps, OS X still does not have adequate business software. What Apple needs is really iOffice, a suite of applications focused at helping business users. For example, maybe Apple could take a clue from Microsoft on this one. Why not make a professional version of OS X that includes Pro versions of applications needed only for business? The issue is that Apple really has not thought about what small business users really need? Office management, accounting, scheduling, are just some of the areas that come to mind. I would think that if there was such a thing as a $600 iOffice that would handle just scheduling and simple entry accounting, that the small business market would break down the doors to switch. My own personal experience with QuickBooks was trying and I know if Apple could come up with a simplified QuickBooks they would more than save me countless hours, they would get my praises as well.
But all of this would have to mean Apple would have to change, from being the cool consumer oriented Apple to a solutions oriented company. Most of all it would mean Jobs would have to devote some actual talented people and plenty of resources to a market that would not yield immediate profits and which could possibly damage the company’s consumer popularity. I still think Apple iOffice would be a great idea and maybe perhaps Apple could actually help all us QuickBook users who have no clue what double-entry accounting is.