The Minnesota Wild and Apple Computer have something in common these days: they’re both showing up in places no one would have expected them to a year ago.

For the NHL expansion team, it’s the Stanley Cup playoffs. In the case of Apple, it’s the enterprise server market. Maybe that’s why the

two were drawn to each other in the first place. The Wild offers fans watching from the 74 luxury suites at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minn., the ability to watch high-definition game images on PowerBook G4s while browsing live stats, scores and news over the Internet.

The data is created, stored and delivered on Apple’s Xserve rack-mounted server hardware. While the team has a PC-based network, it is using the Xserve to handle media-rich images. The team claims it saves money too because it doesn’t pay client access fees for Mac OS X Server or for QuickTime Streaming Server.

Apple marketing representatives were in Toronto recently, emphasizing the cost advantage and administrator-friendly aspects of Xserve.

Xserve aims to serve its existing client base in the small to medium-sized business market and traditional markets such as education and publishing. However, it has also been attracting a new customer base such as the Wild, according to Eric Zelenka, senior product marketing director with Apple in Cupertino, Calif.

“”We’re giving system administrators powerful tools to set up machines easily and reduce total cost of ownership on all systems using Mac OS X server,”” he said.

Apple claims the rack-mountable Xserve costs less than comparable servers. For example, the Xserve with 720GB of storage/150MB/s is US$2.70 per gigabyte compared to Dell’s PowerEdge 1650 438 GB/43MB/s at $6.20/GB.

William Powell, strategic development manager for Markham-based Apple Canada could not cite sales numbers for the server product line, only indicating they were “”ramping up.””

The Xserve has been available in Canada for about nine months. Powell also noted that enterprise organizations tend to take longer to investigate and make decisions around server purchases.

According to IDC Canada analyst Alan Freedman, in 2002 there were 480 units of Xserve servers shipped in Canada, valued at US$1.8 million. The first shipment was made in Q2 of last year.

“”I’m not hearing anything about it really, but traditionally they (Apple) have been very strong in the education market so it would make sense those with desktops and mobiles would be interested at some point,”” said Freedman. “”It’s a real opportunity for them because they have a fervently loyal customer base.””

As do the Minnesota Wild, but both have yet to prove they have what it takes to muscle their way in as newcomers in a tough league.

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