10.3: Plays Well With Others (8/1/03)
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We know the signs have been there for a while, now, but it still just seems so odd to us: Apple is finally targeting big business, albeit in a less obvious (and probably less doomed) manner than that ill-fated mid-nineties "Power Macintosh: The Business Macintosh" campaign. Historically, this is not a playground in which Apple has gotten much time on the monkey bars. If competition in the operating system space is like applying for college, than the enterprise is Microsoft's dad-went-there-and-bought-them-a-gym safety school; the workplace is the one environment in which it just doesn't matter how horrible the Windows experience is to any given employee, because in the vast majority of cases, that employee is forced to use it anyway. The same goes for Office, and Outlook. If you don't like it, you can always quit and get a job being forced to use Windows and Office and Outlook somewhere else.

The fact is, Microsoft is so firmly entrenched in the enterprise market that nothing short of a tactical nuclear charge is likely to dislodge it anytime soon; Apple's only chance of infiltration is to play well with others and remove some of the arguments that Macs aren't compatible with "normal stuff." The better that Macs can integrate with existing Microsoft technologies, the better a chance they have of getting in the front door. We can already run Office, so that's pretty much covered, and Mac OS X has been slowly improving when it comes to working with Windows file-sharing protocols.

So here's the latest on the "Macs in big business" front: support for Exchange servers. For those of you blessed with ignorance of Exchange, don't bother trying to figure out what it is from Microsoft's own "overview" page, because you'd get a better handle on what Exchange actually does by reading the cleaning and care instructions for a George Foreman Lean Mean Grilling Machine. Basically, Exchange is Microsoft's proprietary enterprise server that handles "messaging and collaboration," meaning corporate email, centralized contact lists, calendaring and scheduling, and, evidently, the timely and efficient dissemination of as many viruses as possible. And pretty soon Macs will be able to work with it without having to run the joke known as Outlook for Mac. (Note: there's apparently going to be Exchange support in an upcoming version of Entourage, too.)

See, Think Secret has an intriguing report on a number of Microsoft-compatibility technologies that just popped up in the most recent developer build of Mac OS X 10.3, aka Panther, as hinted previously by Mac OS Rumors. For instance, Apple's Mail application now not only handles POP and IMAP email, but also hooks into Exchange if necessary. And, as we mentioned in passing before, Address Book has a new preference option that allows it to "Synchronize with Exchange." That takes care of email and centralized addressing; the only thing missing is Exchange support in iCal, and you can bet that's probably coming soon.

But wait, it gets better! Our own shadowy and nigh-unimpeachable "sources close to the company" insist that Apple fully intends to go for the throat in 2004 with a Mac OS X upgrade that promises full compatibility with all major Windows viruses, configurable kernel panics (both frequency and appearance-- set 'em for thrice daily and make 'em white-text-on-blue for the version most compatible in a Windows environment), and other features that comply 100% with the most current Secret IT Department Technology Guidelines for Job Security. Come next year, Macs in "Enterprise Mode" will boast at least 80% of the unreliability and user-unfriendliness that's made Microsoft the darling of the enterprise IT world. Apple's shooting for upwards of 90%, but even we're a little skeptical that they could pull that off; Microsoft is the master, after all...


 
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The above scene was taken from the 8/1/03 episode:

August 1, 2003: Apple works overtime to stuff as much Microsoft compatibility into Panther as is humanly possible. Meanwhile, Pixar starts making the move to Mac OS X, and the Department of Homeland Security warns us all again that Windows will be the downfall of our nation...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 4115: A Match Made In Heaven (8/1/03)   Well, the issue of Pixar's chosen computing platform has been an ongoing plot thread for ages, now, but things are starting to take a turn for the inevitable. If you've followed the saga of Steve's other company and its desperate search to find a platform with which it can finally settle down with a house and a white picket fence and 2.4 computer-animated kids running around in the yard, you know that a few years back it relied on vast oceans of SGI and Sun UNIX systems to squeeze out its award-winning films, but in 2001 made a hefty switch to Linux workstations on the desktop-- which was itself a case of changing horses in mid-stream, since the studio was reportedly already in the process of switching to Windows NT...

  • 4116: We Feel Safer And Safer (8/1/03)   Oh, here's a nice way to close out the week. Remember a couple of weeks ago when we pointed out the cruel yet oh-so-delectable irony of the Department of Homeland Security having signed a five-year, $90 million contract to outfit 140,000 government computers with Microsoft software-- known far and wide as the least secure software ever produced?...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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