A recent article by CIO.com titled, "Apple in the Enterprise: Breaking Microsoft's Grip", makes the keen observation that Microsoft is starting to lose their dominant grip in the corporate space. Apple's iPhone and iPad are breaching corporations the same way that Research In Motions Blackberry's did — through the Sales & Marketing Door. iPad's and iPhone's work well on most corporate networks, so it's been difficult for the IT department to prohibit the use of iOS devices within sales and marketing groups. The result has been an explosion of Apple's iOS devices being used in Microsoft's seemingly impenetrable fortress: corporate environments.
In the past five years Microsoft has seen the mobile market take off without being part of the ride. It is not likely that Microsoft will sit idly by and watch the corporate desktop/laptop space be replaced, in large part, by iOS devices. One possible Microsoft response is to make Microsoft's server and networking products only work with their Windows 7x and 8 devices. While this may seem like a backwards move, it may be what ends up happening. When an animal is in trapped in the corner, that is when they are most dangerous and most irrational. Microsoft will do anything to protect their corporate market share and revenue stream. It's clear Microsoft's mobile offerings are no where near Apple, so the next move is to try to cut Apple and others off at the knees.
If Microsoft does take protective action, many IT departments will start to look elsewhere for networking and groupware services. But it's highly unlikely that IT departments will be successful in switching out iOS devices for Windows 7 products, due to IT teams giving their user choices. To reign in choice sets up ugly fight, one where the VP with an iPad typically wins. One such company that IT departments may look to is Google. Google provides groupware (scheduling and email) as well as Google Docs (office-like products). While iOS devices work with Google's cloud applications, this trend wouldn't be something Apple would necessarily cheer. Google could take advantage of this move by making its cloud services work best with Android devices, and in this scenario Apple becomes the odd man out.
If Apple wants to think ahead, it should really rethink its server strategy. While the XServe wasn't selling well, offering a server that deliveres the best networking and groupware services for Apple devices only makes sense. Allowing Google to scoop up Microsoft defectors only gives Google more power in the mobile space.
Apple's "Xserve 2" doesn't have to be the über server, but it needs to be the best server to integrate and use iOS (and Mac) devices. While OS X Lion Server is close, Apple really needs to take the next step of hardware and software integration to make these services dead simple, giving corporations the ability to create their own private cloud solutions with ease.
If Apple doesn't want to build the hardware, then license their software to Dell or HP. However, the real Apple-way is to build an integrated hardware and software solution that is second-to-none.
Unless Apple does something different, someone will fill the void. What's worse, the solution that arrives is not likely to be in Apple's — or those of us who use iOS devices — best interest.
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