Will Mountain Lion’s new security system be a hit or a miss for schools and businesses?
Following the Flashback malware scare this spring, Apple is stepping up its focus on security and malware protection in Mountain Lion. The release notes for the latest Mountain Lion developer preview include references to a “new Mountain Lion Security Updates system” that checks for security updates on a daily basis, uses a more secure connection when communicating with Apple’s update servers, and can install required updates automatically when a Mac is restarted.
Based on the release notes for the system, Apple is making the security update process automatic and has designed it to runs as a system process rather than a user task. Presumably that means it will function without a user logged in or while non-admin users are logged in. All in all, that’s similar to Microsoft’s Windows update feature and a good thing for users.
That doesn’t mean that this setup will be great fit for businesses, schools, and other organizations with large Mac populations.
The Mac Pro is the most PC-like Mac, but it serves niches that other Macs and PCs can’t.
Apple quietly updated its Mac Pro line last week. The update was an important move even though the actual changes were so minor as to be barely noteworthy. The minor refresh gave high computing customers a sense of confidence that Apple wasn’t going to abandon the Mac Pro line anytime soon. That sense of confidence got a boost from New York Times columnist David Pogue, who was assured more substantive Mac Pro upgrades were in the works for 2013.
The Mac Pro is something of a relic when it comes to Apple’s current strategy. It’s the only Mac that features significant expansion options using industry standard hardware – a point made by Lifehacker columnist Adam Dachis, who compared the Mac Pro’s specs and costs to three hackintosh options. Looking at the Mac Pro as simply a series of specs, performance, and cost is appropriate for most users – but not for some important niche markets.
Apple’s pricing for Mountain Lion Server is a great bargain for small businesses.
OS X Server has always been something of a bargain compared to the various flavors of Windows Server. Unlike Microsoft, Apple never focused on a client access licensing model in which organizations must pay for the server software itself plus additional licenses for users or devices that connect to it. Apple also doesn’t break OS X Server down into multiple variations each with its own features, licensing needs, and upgrade limitations.
When you buy OS X Server, Apple gives you everything from file sharing to Internet and collaborative services like wikis and internal messaging through Mac and iOS device management. If you start as a small business with a single basic server and eventually grow to the point where you need to support and manage dozens or hundreds of Macs, PCs, and mobile devices, there are no limits imposed on licensing or data migration.
Inside the Mac Pro, Apple's most powerful and configurable Mac
There have been concerns about the fate of the Mac Pro ever since Apple killed off the Xserve a year and a half ago. Although Apple didn’t say the Mac Pro was on the chopping block, the company did let it go without an update for quite some time. Although the Mac Pro didn’t get featured in today’s WWDC keynote like the MacBook lineup, which includes the new MacBook Pro, it did receive a long-needed update.
The biggest reaction to the Mac Pro’s update today is a sense of relief by many creative professionals and Mac-focused IT departments. The update proves that Apple isn’t signing the death warrant for its most powerful and most expandable Mac. That makes the updated specs a symbol of Apple’s commitment to high-end and high-performance systems in addition to being a major product update.
Is this the Xserve replacement Mac IT pros have been hoping for?
Apple’s decision to cancel the Xserve unleashed a range of questions and concerns from Mac IT professionals. The Xserve was the best Mac server option that Apple had ever created and its 1U rackmount design was a perfect fit for any server closet or data center. The Xserve delivered a tremendous amount of power and flexibility including fibre channel connectivity – a key feature for managing Apple’s Xsan storage system.
Apple positioned the Mac Pro and Mac mini Server as alternate server machines, neither of which deliver the same combination of power, expansion flexibility, and standard network rackmount options as the Xserve.
Despite complaints from enterprise customers about the demise of the Xserve, it’s a forgone conclusion at this point that Apple will never revive it. Mac upgrade and peripheral maker Sonnet Technologies, however, may just have created a true Xserve replacement.
What are IT professionals and business users looking for at this year's WWDC?
WWDC is only a few days away and the event is shaping up to be filled dramatic announcements. Expectations include an Apple HDTV, a new Mac lineup that includes an updated Mac Pro, the unveiling of the next iPhone, iOS 6 with Siri support for the iPad, updates to Siri’s functionality, and load of additional details about Mountain Lion.
Whether all those expectations are met or not, WWDC and its keynote will pack lots of information for developers and IT professionals as well as various Apple product announcements and previews. The big announcements may be the best part of WWDC for most Mac users and Apple fans, but the event is, at its heart, a giant powwow for developers. It also offers IT professionals and CIOs their best glimpse at Apple future plans and the new technologies that they will need to support and/or manage.
So what are IT leaders and business professionals going to be looking for at WWDC? Here’s our IT wish list for this year’s WWDC.
Apple release Lion/enterprise docs on its training site
Apple has added several whitepapers to its training site. All them address enterprise technologies in Lion. While many of the whitepapers have been available from Apple in the past, two of them appear to be new additions. The first of these details the use of Configuration Profiles to manage Macs running Lion as well as iOS device while the second covers 802.1X networking.
The first new whitepaper, which isn’t dated, is definitely the more interesting of the two. It discusses Mac management as an extension of mobile device management (MDM). As we reported last week, Apple appears to be positioning Macs running Mountain Lion to be managed in the same manner as iOS devices rather than using its long-standing Managed Preferences architecture that has been built into OS X and OS X Server since their initial releases over a decade ago.
Microsoft plans to use license agreements to prevent class action lawsuits
Microsoft is a company known for creating strict, labyrinthine, costly terms in its commercial and end-user licensing. With Windows 8 seen as a make-or-break product for Microsoft, the company has already been adding licensing terms intended to strengthen its hand in the mobile market. As we reported earlier this year, Microsoft’s enterprise licensing for Windows 8 has provisions to coerce businesses into buying ARM-based Windows RT tablets while punishing those that deploy iPads with more costly terms.
Ratcheting things up a notch, Microsoft’s general counsel Tim Fielden announced new details about the company’s end-user license agreements. Although not mentioning specific products or services, Fielden posted on a Microsoft blog that many new agreements will prohibit users from initiating a class action lawsuit against the company.
One interesting moment during last year’s WWDC keynote was when Steve Jobs said that Apple was moving beyond the digital hub strategy it had embraced for years. He talked about how our computers are no longer the hub of our digital life and said that Apple was demoting the Macs and PCs and making them just another device like an iPhone or iPad.
That message set the stage for iCloud and for cord-free iOS devices that don’t need a Mac or PC for activation, backup, or sync.
There was also a much subtler message, however, that no one really picked up on at that time. In making the Mac just another device, Apple was likely laying the groundwork to change how companies and schools manage Macs – essentially treating them as just another device and bringing the mobile device management (MDM) paradigm introduced in iOS 4 to OS X and Mac management.
Beyond the classroom, there are some amazing Mac IT training resources
Recently, we’ve done a couple of features on the core tools and skills needed by IT professionals who support and manage Macs and iOS devices in business environments. Knowing what those tools and skills you need is a step in the direction to becoming a killer Mac tech or multi-platform sysadmin, but to really succeed, you need to acquire those skills and learn how to use the appropriate tools.
There are a range of training options available with price points ranging from free online resources to professional IT training companies and Apple-authorized training centers. Which options (or mix of options) are best for you will vary depending on your learning style, the skills and experience that you already possess, and your budget.
In this feature, we’re going to focus on some of the best low-cost (and no-cost) options out there.