Barney's Rubble

Dear Steve: Think Enterprise

In Barney's first open letter ever, he implores Steve Jobs to take Apple into the IT market.

I've always thought open letters to major executives were more pompous than a Dennis Miller monologue, but in this case, it's worth being a bit pretentious. So here it is: My first-ever open letter.

Steve, your company is doing a remarkable job in digital music and mobile phones, and the Mac is doing swell in the graphics and home markets. After seeing the death of OS/2, the Amiga, the Atari ST and a long line of wacky computers from Radio Shack/ Tandy, I'm stunned that your Mac is even still alive. For the record, I predicted the death of the Mac -- one of many times I've been more wrong than an intelligence report on Iraq. For that I apologize.

With Apple's image at an all-time high (your stock isn't too shabby, either), it does seem arrogant for me to offer advice, but I believe Apple is missing out on a golden opportunity. And that opportunity is the enterprise. How many IT pros use Macs at home or buy them for the family? Isn't this a perfect target audience?

One would think so, but you, Steve, clearly don't. Go to Apple.com and you'll find plenty of pages about phones and music players and how cool Macs are-but nothing about business, nothing about IT, nothing about the mainstream.

Your commercials attack Vista and promote the Mac OS as an alternative for computer enthusiasts, but isn't the same true for Corporate America?

Here's a list of what I'd do if I were you:

  • Bring back licensing. A great number of vendors and lower prices worked wonders for Windows.
  • Work like mad with standards bodies, especially on file formats. Relying on Parallels and BootCamp for Windows interoperability isn't enough. You need to improve native Mac OS interoperability.
  • Connect with Linux desktop vendors. Linux on the Mac, if heavily marketed, would rally the geek troops.
  • Get aggressive on pricing. The cheapest MacBook is around $1,100, and its hardware is the rough equivalent of a $450 Dell. You shouldn't have to be a brie-eating, Volvo-driving, Merlot-drinking yuppie to afford a Mac.
  • Communicate with the IT press and IT customers. Although skeptical, the IT press would love to hear from Apple. They would especially like to interview you, Mr. Jobs.
  • Offer a vision of where the Mac is going. Microsoft never stops refreshing its vision of the future, and offers IT a clear roadmap with features, ship dates and sometimes even pricing.
  • Work with IBM. Your old PowerPC ally could be your best enterprise friend. Steve, please give Sam Palmisano a call.
  • It may be that avoiding the enterprise is a smart business decision. If you make an effort and fail, that may affect the image of your other products. Looking back, though, didn't Apple survive the Newton, the Lisa and the Apple IIGS?

    When was the last time Apple spoke to you in IT terms, instead of home computing terms? Send your thoughts to [email protected].

    About the Author

    Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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