Macworld Products That IT Executives Had Better Know About
Apple's offerings traditionally are considered consumer products. Then exhibit hall at this year's Macworld conference, however, had an stronger business influence, with hardware and software thatn may excite even the most buttoned-down corporate ITn departments.
By Esther Schindler
Macworld used to be a consumer show. Macs were used
primarily by individual users and perhaps some small
businesses. Enterprise adoption was limited to the “creatives”
(the weird guys with the earring and noticeable hairdo, who
nevertheless could create marvelous marketing material) and to
school districts where Apple hardware had a long history.
You might not recognize that reputation by this year’s
conference in San Francisco. Oh sure, there’s plenty to keep an
end user happy, from mailing label software to a Mac Bible
concordance app to podcast creation tools. You’ll still find an
excess of iPod sleeves. And your creative departments are sure
to come back with a long list of software they demand you add
to the IT budget, such as graphics applications and Web
But growing acceptance of Macintosh computers in the
enterprise is evident across the show floor, reflected in
several products to help IT departments manage and control the
computers and business software. I spent an afternoon on the
exhibit floor— emphatically not covering
everything— and found these products that will matter to
IT managers (for evil or for good).
Hits to the Hardware Budget
Let’s start with the
MacBook Air because, really, it’s impossible not to. Even if
your shop is committed to Windows, you will have staff
clamoring for a MacBook Air. It positively reeks of cool.
Anyone who travels often will drool over the 3-pound computer
that’s so thin that it fits into a manila envelope. (Though
your IT security department is probably worrying about that
capability, right about now.)
You’ve probably already seen the specs on the $1,799 MacBook
Air: five hours of battery life, the first display with
mercury- and arsenic-free glass, 802.11n and Bluetooth 2.1, a
multitouch trackpad like the iPhone (double-tap to move a
photo, for example), built-in iSight webcam, full-size
keyboard. I want one. So did the crowds surrounding the 40
MacBook Airs on the exhibit floor. So will your staff.
It won’t be the only Apple hardware you’re asked to buy. IT
departments may not be thrilled about supporting the iPhone,
but apparently it’s an inevitability. During his keynote
address yesterday, Steve Jobs said, “IPhone in its first 90
days of shipping garnered almost 20 percent market share of the
smartphone market.” Four million iPhones have been sold in
their 200 days of availability— 20,000 iPhones a day. If
your company hasn’t formulated a strategy for iPhone support,
you’d better get on the stick.
PowerPoint, Project Management—and Devo?
the best moment that captures Apple-meets-business was the
spirited release of the new version of Microsoft Office for
Macintosh. I won’t belabor you with product specs, which are
easily available and probably already on your desk (if not in
the software budget report).
The entertainment for the Office launch party was the rock
band Devo, who can still put
on a darned good show. But there’s something jarring about a
backdrop screen show of PowerPoint slides while Microsoft
people in red Devo flowerpot hats give away door prizes to a
bevy of similarly clad Mac supporters. (Wait, does this mean
that Microsoft Office is supporting RedHat? Oh, sorry,
One curious trend on the Macworld show floor was a plethora
of project management applications, to help managers track
status, determine task dependencies and so on. This once
overwhelming product category faded into ho-hum and minority
status in the PC universe, but I must have seen five project
management programs in three hours, including Merlin, FastTrack Schedule 9 and Project X. They’re a little more “creative” than
the staid project management applications of yore—at
least two of them emphasized that they can import information
from mind-mapping brainstorming tools—but overall I take
this as a positive sign in Mac business adoption.
GridIron Flowspecializes in workflow, with
a visual display of the relationships between files and
assets, a calendar view to show what’s been worked on, and
show dependencies based on, say, files referenced in a
website development project.
Virtualization, Security, Asset Management
Many of the business-savvy products intend to ease
cross-platform stress. VMWare and Parallels both have booths showing off their
virtualization solutions. WebEx is showing
software to let Mac users access Windows PCs and vice versa.
WebEx PCNow describes itself as “an on-demand, remote-access
service for both desktop and wireless devices,” but in my view
it’s a way for dedicated users to get to their preferred OS.
It’s a great option for seamless telecommuting, especially when
you realize you left that important file back on the PC in the
Other products provide enterprise-class storage and security
services. Atempo showed me its Atempo Live Backup,
which offers continuous data protection for desktops and
laptops “in self-serve software that’s easy on IT
administrators.” The software runs in the background,
silently capturing and tracking data modifications as they
occur on network-connected computers. It automatically backs
up data wherever the computer is located, whether in company
HQ or at Starbucks. A management console lets you control
restoration to and create disk images for all those
JAMF Software showed both its Caspar Suite
5.1 and the new Recon Suite. Both promise client management
solutions for Macintosh systems, such as letting
administrators deploy the Adobe Creative Suite using Adobe’s
installation technologies, and cross-platform inventory
solutions across the company network.
Speaking of asset maintenance, quite a few firms are showing
their infrastructure management apps for Macs. Asset Trustee,
from FileWave, gives you a profile of company
hardware and software whether on Mac OS, Windows or Linux.
It shows patch status and security status, shows legal
compliance with site licensing, and shows the current setup
for any specific computer, even an offline laptop. They
aren’t the only such vendor at Macworld: I also visited with
LANDesk for a peek at the LANDesk
Management Suite and stopped by the Effigent booth to see Tivoli for
A friend made me stop by the Faronics booth, as the school system for
which he works depends on its Deep Freeze Mac application.
Even if a student totally screws up the school computer, my
friend explained, the software lets administrators deliver a
clean and consistent workstation on the next bootup.
Connectivity isn’t ignored, either. Equinux demonstrated its VPN Tracker 5 for
Macintosh, which supports IPsec standards, location
awareness and multiple VPN tunnels. It’s available in both
personal (suitable for users who want to connect to the
office network from home) and professional editions.