A Leopard in the enterprise?

Apple announced earlier this week features of its new Mac OS X  Server that seem more suited to the consumer than the corporate world.

Mac OS X Server 10.5, code-named Leopard, is all about ease of use, according to Alykhan Jetha, president and CEO of the Markham, Ont.-based third-party Apple software company Marketcircle. He has had access to a beta version of the server (set to be released this fall), and said that he found the new product to be very user-friendly.

“(Apple’s) business strategy is calling attention to the product’s ease of use. They will use this to try and expand throughout the server world as much as possible,” he said.

Jetha said that there has been a “reasonable” amount of Tiger deployments, but that Leopard’s simplicity should really kick-start it in the SMB business sphere. “We’re gonna see an increase in the take-up (with Leopard) — I can definitely see an up-trend here… I don’t think, though, that (Apple’s) making a major push into the server world-they’re just letting it happen.”

Jetha said he foresees Apple sticking to the small and medium size business world for a good while, and its steady clients in specific verticals like the science industry.

Maurice Pelletier, a multimedia specialist with the Edmonton-based Learn Alberta (a provincial educational program that uses multimedia to augment the K-12 curriculum), said that the rules of the enterprise could also hold Apple back. “Large enterprise could have a really tough time (with Leopard), what with the policies in place. There are rules surrounding what software and technologies that can be used. It can be difficult to change once you’re on a roadmap,” he said.

Jetha lauded another new feature for its ease of use: a wiki server. This allows business users to create wikis, while the server stores them (and all the contributed information and process trail). Jetha said that the simple set-up with this wiki option will probably encourage more people in the business space to make use of them. “Wikis can be quite useful in small businesses. You can actually just start using (the Leopard wiki server) — it’s very cool, as set-up of wikis can sometimes be difficult. Here, it’s really easy,” according to Jetha.

According to Pelletier, this seemingly consumer-used toolset could actually prove a good selling point. He said, “More and more people in the enterprise are using stuff like that –they’re creating more and more multimedia things, from podcasts to wikis to graphics. What was once outsourced is now done in-house. iApps, especially, make it really easy, too.”

Two new features are in line with Apple’s push for allowing smaller companies without an IT department to manage their content and organization. The server can automatically configure Leopard clients with everything from Mail and iChat to file-sharing and VPN. The built-in iCal server also helps unify calendar programs, courtesy of the open CalDAV standard.

Price is another lure to those outside the enterprise space, according to Jetha. Leopard doesn’t operate on a client access license basis, he said, making the price point very attractive, compared to the often-expensive licensing models favoured by many software vendors. “I’m betting on that it will be a selling point,” he said.

All of Marketcircle’s 2008 releases will be Leopard-only products, Jetha added. It runs on Objective-C 2 code, which is backward compatible for the old standard, Objective-C. He found that the server also has improved memory management capabilities and a more streamlined code structure

Another new, Web 2.0-type feature is the Podcast Producer, which allows users to turn record content into a podcast. Pelletier said that this could be useful in the business space not just as a marketing or content distribution tool, but as a way to record meetings or brainstorming sessions for employees unable to attend or mobile workers.

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