Steve Jobs Still Doesn’t Get Business Customers



It’s no secret than I’ve been a less-prolific blogger over the last, oh, six months or so. Part of this is fairly dull personal life details (marriage, etc. Hi, honey!), but a bigger part of it has been the very quiet development of my first book, Wired to Care, which I co-wrote with my dear friend and colleague Dev Patnaik of Jump Associates. The book won’t be out until January, but our new blog is live now.

Now, far be it for me to avoid any shameless self-promotion, but I bring it up for another reason. The top post of the moment is my epic manifesto on why it is that Apple has never made significant in-roads in the enterprise space, while IBM remains the machine of choice more than 30 years after Steve Jobs declared war on Big Blue. It’s tied tightly to the theme of the book, but I think it can be regarded most as a guest appearance by Cult of Mac at the Wired to Care blog. Plus, it has the Apple Lemmings ad:

“Steve Jobs doesn’t have a clue about how to sell anything to business customers. From 1981’s defective Apple III to the $10,000 NeXT Computer to Apple’s current efforts, the offerings that Steve Jobs has created for enterprise technology customers have universally flopped. The company’s current high-profile effort in that arena is the xServe, a sleek metal computer meant to handle the file-sharing needs of a small or medium business. While beautifully designed in the way that all of Apple’s products are, the xServe screams to the world of business that it was not designed with them in mind. People working in technology at companies want to buy something that looks reliable, fast, and, most importantly, too complex-looking for ordinary people to manage. Simple hardware doesn’t connect with its intended audience, and the xServe has no traction whatsoever with business customers.”

I have a lot more to say on the subject, and I hope you do, too! Let the argument begin in the comments thread at W2C, and I’ll keep you updated whenever there’s more Apple content over there!

28 responses to “Steve Jobs Still Doesn’t Get Business Customers”

  1. Cory Schulz says:

    Ummm…. so let me get this straight… Apple’s products look cool… and that’s why businesses don’t want them? You may as well have just retitled and rewritten this article as “Businesses are dumb and most IT guys are idiots when it comes to buying computers.” That’s the impression that I get. If I had a small business I would be very pleased (and excited) with an xServe. Sometimes I just get so sick of living in a world of idiots and low quality human beings. Interesting article though!

  2. Terry says:

    Apple DOES NOT CARE about business customers. If they did they would go after that market. Microsoft is lucky they don’t. yes they have the X-serve but that is a departmental level server and sells to education and specialized scientific markets.

    Your article is stupid.

  3. Shawen says:

    I too like the xServe. It is a pretty good server. However, compared to Dell, HP, or IBM servers it lacks ALOT and I am not talking hardware here. The other servers that I manage have extensive centralized hardware reporting capabilities. I can convince the xServe to do most of this but it does not fall into place tike the other server offerings do.
    That being said, I think the largest problem that Apple has in the enterprise has nothing to do with hardware or software. Apple has targeted the consumer market quite effectively and gone out of its way to mock and antagonize business. this will not endear them to a number of people.
    I have personally run across people who will not consider a Mac for anything at any cost. I actually had one customer tell me that Mac’s were toys and he needed a real computer to do real work. After three reloads of XP to solve nagging mail problems I had him try and Intel iMac which he would later threaten to fight me for if I tried to take it away.
    I have never had a problem getting people to stay with the mac on the desktop once they try it and that can sometimes take some convincing. I have always wondered though, Microsoft captured the desktop and then turned that monopoly on the desktop into a wild expansion on the server side. Apple clearly has the superior desktop right now and to some extent they are using this as you can see in their market share. It would seem to me that they could leverage this on the server side by fighting Microsoft on the Office front with iWork.
    The final item would be cost. A number of companies that I did work for had a budget of $1,000 USD or less for desktop hardware. Software was almost always covered under license agreement with Microsoft. So long as the purchasing department says that they pay no more than some arbitrary number for a desktop Apple is in trouble. I have never been able to successfully have a value discussion with a person from purchasing. They just keep saying that we do not pay more than $xxx.xx for a desktop. That is usually where the discussion ends.
    Just my two cents. It seems to me the quickest route into the enterprise right now is with iWorks. The new version of Office is bloated crap that 99.99% of people will never fully use. Getting back to basics at a lower per unit cost is very compelling and iWorks could actually do it.


  4. Browncoat Penguin says:

    > “Businesses are dumb and most IT guys are idiots when it comes to buying
    > computers.”

    Well, if the shoe fits…

    Truly, the IT guy who does purchasing here has yet to put forward rational argument against a Mac. His argument is basically “These Dell’s are good enough.”

    This despite the fact that he’s a Unix guy, as am I. The thing that makes Macs lovely now is the crunchy FreeBSD core.

    We also have no backup in this office…at all. Easy solution with a Mac is to attach a small hard drive to each box. Spendy, but easy to implement and it enables a simple bare metal restore for any crashed computer.

  5. Tom says:

    Jeez Pete –
    “People working in technology at companies want to buy something that looks reliable, fast, and, most importantly, too complex-looking for ordinary people to manage.”

    How I laughed – if they’re buying it because it looks “complex to manage” to indicate it’s useful, they’re ain’t the brightest of the bunch.

    The XServe isn’t simple, but it is accessible. Trying reading
    Tom Yager’s reviews say this well :

    It must be really silly and non-business of Apple to have a product that
    has “…no subscriptions, no priority update service fees, and no client, device, mailbox or CPU licenses.”

    I’d like to hear exactly how making something easier to deploy and manage, makes it worse… You somehow think it’s dumbed down, because it’s initial appearance doesn’t fry your brain with the visual complexity.
    I think Yager would put you in the class of:
    “nauseated by the notion of using a novice-friendly server appliance”. Go command line if you want to self-flaggelate…

  6. lonbud says:

    @Terry – You’re one of the guys Cory was talking about.

  7. chloedog says:

    We have 21 XServes and 3 XServe RAIDs at our business. This article is correct in that Apple has yet to crack the business market, but it is wrong on why. (And kind of silly, when you think about it.)

    IT doesn’t care that the design is sleek or simple, nor do they care that the design is complex and geeky. IT doesn’t care about the design. They care about functionality.

    Apple has failed the business market because it hasn’t addressed any single business segment well, choosing instead to address all segments poorly. They could be a cheaper to manage server solution for enterprise, except large enterprise can afford super-talented IT managers who can run the Linux server stuff. These enterprise customers will pay more to the IT staff to run cheaper hardware. They need to drop the prices here.

    They could also be a slightly more expensive, but easier to manage server for small to medium business without a full IT staff. The problem here is that the cost for hardware and software support are separate prices, which flies in the face of Apple’s tried and true model of providing service and support under one AppleCare contract. Additionally, the price of both hardware and software support are exorbitant for small business. Add in the upscale pricing of the server itself, and you start to see why a business may be wary of such an investment.

    Our small business has invested in the Apple server line only because I was already very experienced with both the server and client software, our client machines are all Apples, making it a great plug and play server solution. Even still, we did not purchase any AppleCare or software support for any of our 24 Xserve products, as the price was too high. We have AppleCare on all 26 client machines.

  8. Martijn says:

    Apple does not appeal to business, because mainstream business applications (like up-to-date versions of databases like Oracle and Microsoft) do not run on OSX. It’s not the hardware, it is the OS that is the problem.

    If you dish the OS and install some *nix variety on it, you have a rather expensive box with no vendor support whatsoever (compared to what IBM and HP are offering).

    Apple is just not interested in the business market, although I guess a lot of business would be interested if they would offer compelling support for both 3rd party software and hardware.

  9. Bill Olson says:

    The actual answer is …

    Steve Jobs and Apple does not have enough time to deal with going after the business market. Not yet.

    Despite what you might think, Apple doesn’t want to grow too big too fast. Right now they have a tiger by the tail with several products.

    Keep in mind the delay of 10.5.5 because of the iPhone taking developers away from it. Right there you have the answer to the whole question.

    They aren’t going to just add employees and throw them at the business market. They’ve tried that before and blew it badly.

    To put it bluntly. It is far easier to convince consumers to switch than it is to get companies to switch. Plus there is more than one way to get companies interested.

    As more and more people (the trends say this) people buy Apple computers the more demand companies are going to have to support Mac computer for things like VPN.

    This is true for the organization that I work for.

    It used to be that we would have one or two people a year asking for VPN access with their Mac. (They were denied this, by the way). Now there are a half dozen a week.

    Not very many? True. But the curve is going up for the number of Mac users and this demand will build.

    Meanwhile Apple doesn’t want too much business business happening too quickly. They still have Snow Leopard and they are thinking about and doing a lot with the iPhone two versions ahead of what we have the slightest clue about.

    Mac OS X is only about 70% of where the core part of NextStep was when it was bought by Apple. There is tones of things that Steve wants in OS X that NextStep had. Just Google for the video demonstrations that Steve did. Very interesting stuff.

  10. Ian Joyner says:

    It’s not Apple – it’s the people who won’t look at anything that is not IBM or now Microsoft. It’s been the same in this industry from before Apple came along. Other companies in the BUNCH had better offerings, but could they sell into the IBM mindset? No. They fear they’ll lose their jobs. At least if you bought IBM (Windows) and fail, you’re the same as anyone else. Buy something different though and it will be difficult to succeed as others conspire against your success.

    I remain optimistic though, these die hards do seem to be becoming less in number.

  11. Rich says:

    Ian has it pegged. We dropped all of our Netware servers years ago, because the CEO and CIO felt we needed to keep the servers ‘simple’. Now we have 10 times as many servers, and still do not have the controls in place we used to have, without spending $20k on management tools that were just built-in before.

    No alternate OSes are allowed – even for appliances, because it would mean supporting something that’s not Windows, which would be ‘too expensive’.


  12. jay says:

    Your premise is flawed. Apple is making significant inroads into business. But it is not doing so by trying to be dell (EG: cheap undifferentiated crap) because this is not where its strength lies. The last two jobs I had were at companies where every machine in our office was a Mac — pretty much complete apple shops. We had custom built linux boxes that our IT guy (who used a mac most of the time) put together for our servers. Prior to that everyone had a choice, and %70 of the engineers chose macs, while we, again, had unix boxes for servers. Before that I worked for a fortune 100 company, and while IT was clueless (as ever) and issued laptops, they were finally being forced to give people choice and macs were starting to roll in.

    Business computers fill a wide variety of roles– from point of sale, to back end servers, to employee machines. Apple only makes products focused on two of these roles– the specialized back-end server role, which the xserve targets successfully, and the employee machine role, which macs and macbooks target successfully.

    The xServe isn’t supposed to be a dirt cheap web server, and it doesn’t compete in that market. This is not failure. This is success– because if you are building a high end video editing suite you’re most likely going to buying xServes to handle the video, etc. xServe works in its target market…. but even if Apple were to drop the xServe– it wouldn’t be failing in business.

    Apple is succeeding in business by providing a better solution to computer users, an this is driving demand. “Success” should not be defined by market share or emulating other companies.

    Success must be defined by meeting the goals the company has set out for itself, or externally, by looking at growth.

    Apple is experiencing significant market share growth, significant profits, and is achieving the goals it sets for itself (for instance in iphone adoption.)

    You might as well be lamenting that Apple is failing in the canned sardine market.

  13. Johnnie says:

    I agree with Terry, your article is stupid. I own a small business and just recently bought an Xserve. The beauty of it is we will not need a full-time IT guy to maintain it. The biggest myth out there is that going Apple is more expensive. What a crock! Compare the cost of running Leopard server with Microsoft Exchange. You could save thousands, potentially tens of thousands of dollars, by going with Apple. Leopard server gives you an unlimited license and comes free when you buy the Xserve! Try that with a Dell and Microsoft. Leopard is half the cost of Vista, iWorks is half the cost of Office, iWorks doesn’t contain an app like Outlook/Entourage, but you don’t need one because Apple gives you Mail, Address book, and iCal for free.

    To me, the Xserve was the biggest no-brainer decision I have ever made. (We run a total Mac office; no PCs; we run Windows XP on one of our iMacs for the one and only app we use for which there is currently no Mac equivalent (QuickBooks Premier; which integrates with our credit card/merchant processing system; Intuit’s Mac version does not.)

  14. fuenuetle says:

    Hey everybody!

    My name is Will I’ve been lurking here for a while now and finally just joined. I’ve been a gamer for most of my life, and I’m looking forward to my new “home” and getting to know all of you.

    I was curious if anybody here has an opinion about any of these Wii downloads sites I’ve seen. I’ve found a pretty cool site that has lots of reviews and info about Wii Downloads. Have any of you guys heard of it? it looks cool to me but I was wondering what you all thought.