Surprise! Apple has more enterprise savvy than Microsoft

IT likes to complain that Apple doesn't understand business, but the company's business presence continues to grow

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The bottom line is that Apple keeps compatibility for a reasonable amount of time (unlike, say, the Android community), even if we don't always like the fact that we'll have to make the change at some point. Supporting the new Lightning connector will cost money and involve the hassle of working with two connector types and needing adapters for a while, just as Apple's transition away from FireWire will mean a similar transition for storage and other devices.

Apple has maneuvered Microsoft into the back end -- except for Office
I think what really gets in IT's craw is that Apple has quietly if doggedly reinvented the front office expectations of technology. The company has made usability a prime criterion (especially because IT is typically atrocious at usability) and broken down the work/personal divide in our technology, in reflection of the movement that already occurred in terms of availability expectations, schedule flexibility, and work at home.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has fooled around with major OSes, server products, and Office versions whose major benefit is to sell more licenses, not enable users where their needs are greatest. Look how convoluted SharePoint has become, how irrelevant the last several versions of Office have been, and how useless Lync is. Look how Microsoft has tried to out-Apple Apple in delivering proprietary products and ecosystems, such as Office and Office 365. At the same time, Microsoft continues to deliver strong server tools, giving real value to the data center back end.

Ironically, Apple has leveraged Microsoft's back-end services in key areas, mostly related to Exchange and EAS. That smoothed iOS's entry into the enterprise, where about 70 percent of businesses use Exchange. That's good for Microsoft's server business, but not so much for its Windows arm.

Also, Apple hasn't taken on Office. Sure, it offers its iWork trio, but except for Keynote, iWork is no threat to Office. If anything, Apple seems to have abandoned iWork strategically -- the last major update was in winter 2009. Perhaps it hopes Microsoft will port Office to the iPad, which would cement iOS's enterprise presence. That's the last thing Microsoft wants, but if Apple devices continue to gain market share, it may need to cry uncle and support iOS rather than lose Office revenues. It feels very much like a game of chicken.

At the end of the day, while Microsoft catered to IT and lucrative site licenses, Apple enabled the changing fundamental needs of the business. It made mobile computing and a flexible front office not only possible but normal. Many in IT are only now realizing the importance of user-facing technology as an enabler, after years of seeing it as a burden. Like it or not, Apple beat them to the punch.

This article, "Surprise! Apple has more enterprise savvy than Microsoft," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Smart User blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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