The Problem With Apple: Product Or Platform?

Apple Is Starting To Play A Bigger Role In Every IT Department - Are You Ready?
Apple Is Starting To Play A Bigger Role In Every IT Department – Are You Ready?

In the world of IT we deal with lots of different questions: what project to take on, how best to align with the business, how to improve processes. One thing that we don’t really spend much time thinking about is if our applications should run on Microsoft or Apple platforms. Hmm, has Apple missed the boat here?

I bring this up as a discussion point because, let’s face it, Apple makes some fantastic products. Starting with the Mac, they went on to produce the PowerBook, the Newton (come on, you remember that one), the iPod, the iPhone, etc. However, they’ve never really been a platform company.

I’m playing games with words here and perhaps I should better explain myself. Michael Cusumano over at the Communications of the ACM gave this some thought awhile back and I think that he was on to something. He defined a platform as being something that had open interfaces and for which further development was encouraged and licensed. Apple doesn’t do this.

From an IT perspective, this causes a number of problems. There’s no question that Apple products are “sexy” and easy to use. However, since there is all too often only one source for features and applications, an ecosystem comparable to that which developed around Microsoft products never arose.

No big deal you say – Apple products are only found in graphic design shops and educational environments. Well, up until the iPhone came out I would have agreed with you. However, the runaway success of the iPhone and the demand for iPhone apps from the Apple store is starting to make it look like a dominate mobile computing platform.

As more and more of your staff start showing up sporting Apple iPhones, you are going to start to feel pressure to come up with ways to iPhone enable your IT department’s apps. This can be done, it’s just that you’ll find that it’s not as easy as connecting a Microsoft PC to your network.

Times are changing and Apple still makes great products. However, since they are not in the business of making platforms you’ve got your work cut out for you…

Do you already have Apple products that people are trying to hook into your network? Have you started to support these products? Does your staff have iPhones? Do they want to use these iPhones to access your network? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.