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Apple & The Grey

It's time to add some colour.


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No computer company can ever own panache like Apple. Apple's panache isn't about usability. It's about panache. Usability enters into it at some point, but Apple products are simply cool. And products from most other companies are simply not cool. It's as simple as that.

Yet woe to those who work in the enterprise. They can have Apple products at their periphery but never at the core. They have to use grey products at the core. They have to because Apple aren't competing at the core anymore.

One of the most powerful supercomputers in the world once came from Apple. Apple had some of the coolest, sexiest, most amazing server hardware going. Watching how an iPod interacted with an OS X server was a disruptive experience. Their server hardware was - unbelievably enough - competitively priced.

But that's all gone. And ZFS? It fell by the wayside. A full scale invasion of the enterprise space? It never got off the ground. Apple never gave it an effort, never really went into the market to win. They gave up just like they did with the desktop which today is riddled with unintuitive and very uncool interfaces, thanks to Microsoft, and is besieged with malware, thanks again to Microsoft.

Steve Jobs hated the enterprise market. And he explained why too: no instant gratification. You couldn't watch overjoyed customers holding their iPads over their heads as they exited the store. You had to deal with the grey. And that's rarely as satisfying.

Or is it?

Think of all the grey for a moment. Because it's everywhere. Who's going to take away the grey?

Look at Microsoft. There's no more lacklustre company anywhere. A company that for an entire decade succeeded reliably in producing only cringeworthy products. Have they tanked? No. They have niche markets.

Apple's niche markets? They don't have any. Samsung passed Apple in mobile sales recently. Apple need to constantly innovate to stay out in front, to keep their bewildering market cap, to keep afloat. They have no niche markets to fall back on.

Steve Jobs was once head of an 'enterprise division' at Apple. That division didn't do too well. A lot of things in those years didn't do well. But what about the grey?

And who better than Apple to deal with it?

Apple's slogan used to be 'for the rest of us'. What's the matter with 'for those of us who don't like grey and have to work with boring grey people'?

The enterprise will always be around. But it's a greyer world without Apple in there to add colour.

Being a niche player means playing according to niche player rules, and Apple never really got a handle on that. Apple never really understood how to play with others. Best Buy and Sun come immediately to mind.

Consider what Apple do with open source. Open source is big and beautiful, they say. But do they really mean it? What happened to Open Darwin? Most importantly: how much time and money is wasted changing open source code to suit arbitrary and quirky needs that long since lost their relevance? That kind of nonsense is to no one's benefit - least of all Apple's.

Do Apple stockholders even have a clue how much money is in the enterprise? When a company like Microsoft can come out with Surface and Zune and the horribly failed Windows 8 and still survive because there's no one that does it right?

Who wants Microsoft in the enterprise market besides Microsoft? No one. Most people would welcome an Apple who booted Microsoft out of there and took over.

But Apple panache in the enterprise has to be enterprise panache. It's a bit different, but it's nothing the creativity of Apple can't master.

Apple customers are smug and content in their consumer world. But what about 'the rest of us' who live in the grey world of the enterprise?

Come on, Apple! Give the grey some colour.

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