How Apple Threw Away The Opportunity To Launch A Facebook For Businesses


Apple's wiki server could have been a major social network option for businesses
Apple's wiki server could have been a major social network option for businesses


Microsoft confirmed yesterday that it plans to purchase Yammer, a four-year old company that specializes in providing enterprise social networks. The move, which has been rumored for months, offers Microsoft a chance to develop business collaborative systems that go well beyond the company’s Sharepoint service.

The move is an interesting one that could be significant in the enterprise space. The success of public social networks has led a number of organizations to attempt to bring the social concept into the workplace. The rate of success has varied with NASA’s Spacebook project being one of the more notable failures (and one lampooned by Stephen Colbert).

Ironically, Apple has largely stayed out of the social space altogether. Few people (if any) would describe Apple’s Ping network, a social tie-in to iTunes, as a success. On the business and enterprise front, however, Apple once seemed to have many of the ingredients needed to create a powerful social platform – and yet the company never truly tried to capitalize on them.

With the release of Leopard Server nearly five years ago, Apple began building a range of cross-platform collaborative tools into its server OS. Although those services have been maintained and occasionally expanded in the releases since, Apple has never positioned them as an enterprise social network option.

The OS X Server collaboration tool set includes a cross-platform Jabber-based messaging system, a very easy to configure and administer wiki service, a blogging platform, and shared contacts and calendar functionality. Apple even used some of its core technologies like Spotlight, Quick Look, and iOS support as key underpinnings of this tool set.

Unfortunately, Apple never positioned its collaborative suite effectively as an enterprise solution. Even as Apple has refocused OS X Server as a small business solution, it has tends to market its collaborative tools almost as an afterthought.

The irony is that, unlike Ping, the collaborative tools in OS X Server actually might have had a chance for success with the right marketing. Although the positioning of these tools was more centered around the blog and wiki concepts, the fact is that with a few tweaks it was – and still is – possible to develop an internal resource that offers many of the social features that products like Jive and Yammer offer. The wiki focus could even have been a real selling point, particularly with regards to its iOS support

Ultimately, it’s difficult to say if Apple could have delivered a true enterprise social network and had major success. Instead, it seems that Apple has opted more for being a good enterprise citizen over being a potential enterprise leader.

Source: NY Times

Image: Apple


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