The Mac is back in the enterprise. Last year, sales of Apple's flagship computer to business jumped substantially, growing 44 percent compared in Q3 with a paltry 5.3 percent increase for Windows machines, according to Needham & Co. Yet its current operating system, known as OS X 10.7 Lion, is a disaster from a CIO's perspective.
Most IT departments wisely wait before unleashing an operating system upgrade on their companies. In Lion's case, it would be wiser to leave it alone entirely. It's already been through numerous updates, now shipping as OS X 10.7.3. And the company already has announced its successor, OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. But if Apple doesn't address some serious problems in Lion, it too will be a nightmare for IT. Here's why.
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Once deployed, Lion's current features likely will cause a spike in pricey help desk calls, increase security risks, and cause no end of user frustrations -- all of which will burden the IT department. For those companies who were using the previous OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard and have upgraded, the problems will be the most acute because the gratuitous changes made to the software will confuse users and undoubtedly hurt their productivity.
Lost in Spaces
Let's start with the wonderful tool called Spaces. Introduced years ago as an option, it lets users create multiple desktop views, or spaces, where they could set up task-specific work environments from their System Preferences application. For example, you could configure the number of spaces you wanted -- maybe one for collaboration apps, one for business-sensitive documents, another for games, and so on. It was a great enhancement.
In Lion, Spaces come out of the box set at three, instead of allowing a user or system administrator to set them up. Worse, they're fixed so you cannot manage them from Systems Preferences. You need to alter them by hovering over a given space. However, because you can no longer manage them from System Preferences, you're stuck with three. (Editor's note: The author seems unaware that all a user has to do is launch the Mission Control application from the OS X Dock and then click the Close box for the unwanted space, rather than detour to the System Preferences application.)
Dangerous system settings
In and of itself, that might not be more than a time-wasting IT problem when users, trained for years to use the Systems Preferences application, call the help desk asking how to manage the spaces. However, combined with another inexplicable change, the change in spaces management to the spaces themselves increases an enterprise's security risks.
When you shut down a modern desktop computer, users see a window telling then that their computer will shut down in so many seconds. Most people then press Return to make the shutdown immediate. But with Lion there's an added small checkbox that is permanently checked and tells you that all of your currently running applications, including those running in all of your spaces, will launch again when you next turn the computer on.