Enterprise takes a backseat at Expo

Apple’s consumer electronics products are getting all the attention at Macworld Expo this week, but enterprise customers claim not to feel slighted.

By launching the iPhone and the Apple TV set-top box for sending movies from a computer to a television set, and dropping the word “Computer” from its company name, Apple is clearly moving more toward being a consumer products company and away from being a computer maker.

All the major product announcements Apple made at the Macworld Conference & Expo in San Francisco were of consumer products. When a reporter asked to speak with someone from Apple who could discuss the company’s products for the enterprise market, he was told no one from that area was at the show.

Still, the MacIT Conference for enterprise Mac users was held concurrently with Expo with programs on the Mac OS X Server operating system, network security, virtualization and other topics.

“We’re okay with the consumer electronics getting the spotlight,”said Bill Kish, CEO of Coyote Point Systems, a provider of applications traffic management technology on computer networks, and a presenter at the MacIT Conference.

And those consumer electronics products will appeal to business users, too, said Schoun Regan, chairman of MacIT.

The Apple iPhone, for instance, has conference call capabilities, improved calendar, e-mail and voice mail programs and a video iPod, all of which have business uses, said Regan, who is also CEO of ITInstruction.com, a Mac platform training company.

A company can produce training videos and employees can watch them on their iPhones rather than come to a company conference room to view them, he said.

And Apple TV has a place in the conference room as well as the living room.

“Imagine all the projector rooms that people have to plug into to run their presentations or show anything like that,” Regan said. With Apple TV, employees can wirelessly move digital content from a laptop to Apple TV and onto a television. “The business world is built around presentations.”

And the Mac OS X Leopard operating system update, due out this spring, will include a wiki program, which is a type of Web site with content that can be edited by anyone. A wiki can be an important collaboration tool for enterprises, Regan said.

But while Apple can point to products that appeal to the enterprise, and does have an enterprise sales force, the enterprise is decidedly not the company’s main focus.

“Apple really hasn’t positioned its technology to go after the enterprise market,” said Mark Margevicius, an analyst with Gartner. “I keep asking them ‘What’s stopping you?’ and they say, ‘That’s something we’re not targeting now.’”

Selling Apple to enterprises has always been an “uphill battle,” said John Martellaro, an editor at The Mac Observer .

Martellaro once worked for Apple, selling to the U.S. government. “There was pressure to increase sales and we used aggressive salesmanship.”

But sometimes, Apple’s consumer focus worked against its sales opportunities in government, he said. When it included Web cameras on its notebook computers, Apple lost the opportunity to sell them to federal agencies with high security issues. No matter how protected a computer might be from hackers, all someone would have to do is hold a classified document up to the webcam to subvert that.

Still, Apple’s computers have a reputation for being secure, stable and have innovations that will always appeal to some enterprise users.

And even if this year’s Expo focus has been on consumer electronics, Apple will continually have to improve its computers and servers to stay competitive, said Mike McGuire, another Gartner analyst. Consumer-focused devices like iPhone, iPod, and Apple TV can only operate in conjunction with a computer to synchronize data and download content from the Web, said McGuire.

“It’s not either-or computers or consumer electronics. They are all part of an ecosystem and in order for an ecosystem to work, everything needs to be in balance,” he said.

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