Apple's recent announcement of the departures of two of its key executives, Scott Forstall, senior vice president of iOS Software, and John Browett, head of Apple retail, was made the day before hurricane Sandy hit, and was likely intended to break the news but to control messaging and media reaction. It is in line with similar Apple communiqués, which are typically kept "low key" and-in the case of new product developments-sometimes not made at all.
Apple is a leader in the fiercely competitive consumer marketplace where nothing (even being on top) can be taken for granted. Because of this, it is very understandable why Apple tightly controls its public communiques about new product development in particular. But for CIOs running enterprise IT, this muted communications policy can wreak havoc on future IT roadmaps, the long-term groundwork that must often be laid for major IT investments, and even determining where IT needs additional resources or internal training and policies.
Conversely, other leading enterprise technology companies are sensitive to the long enterprise planning and budgetary cycles-and they work to meet the information needs of CIOs who must work in these environments. If you are IBM, Oracle, EMC, Microsoft or others that often sell to the enterprise, there is a plethora of breaking news, industry analyst calls, technology Webcasts, trade shows and articles in trade journals. These communications keep CIOs and other key IT decision-makers informed about company technology visions, new products and enhancements, and when all of these trends are likely to come together into end solutions that IT can purchase and incorporate in its own infrastructure. CIOs rely on this input, since few have dedicated technology researchers on their staffs. These same CIOs, when they are asked about Apple, tend to view Apple products as geared to the consumer market. Consequently, there hasn't been much historical concern within enterprises about where Apple is going and how it will impact IT infrastructure. The exceptions to this are enterprises that are reliant on Apple servers in their data centers, such as movie rendering and entertainment companies, or publishing.
Now, however, there appears to be some shifting of Apple's traditionally "back seat" enterprise tech role. The shift started with enterprise mobile device initiatives like BYOD (bring your own device)-with Apple iPhones and iPads coming in as overwhelming favorite devices. This enterprise end device trend has been further fueled by a new focus on enterprise app building for mobile devices, with iPhones and iPads the most popular target devices.
Meanwhile, Apple itself has made some recent moves that appear to indicate that it is considering a more active role in the enterprise technology market. Last month, a new 13-inch-screen MacBook and two new iMac desktop workstations were introduced to the enterprise market, in addition to a new server for small-office environments. Still unknown (and of concern if you are an entertainment media house with rows of Mac Pros in your data center) is the ultimate fate of the Mac Pro, which now boasts 12 processing cores and is billed by Apple as "the fastest MAC ever", but must still send its data through old technology like firewire and PCI cards, since the Mac Pro is suspiciously missing the Thunderbolt upgrade for rapid throughput that has become standard equipment with the less powerful and scalable iMAC.
If you are a CIO in one of these MAC-centric businesses, you have to be scratching your head and wondering where you're going with the future direction of your data center. Even if you're not a CIO in a Mac-centric business, you want to know what level of agility your data center will need for iPhones, iPads, and desktop servers that come with new features and functions that end users want, but that might have tech integration limits.
These are the areas where Apple can assist enterprises, which require advance insights into product direction so plans can be made and budgets can be found.
Mary E. Shacklett is president of Transworld Data, a technology research and market development firm. Prior to founding the company, Mary was Senior Vice President of Marketing and Technology at TCCU, Inc., a financial services firm; Vice President of Product Research and Software Development for Summit Information Systems, a computer software company; and Vice President of Strategic Planning and Technology at FSI International, a multinational manufacturing company in the semiconductor industry. Mary is a keynote speaker and has more than 1,000 articles, research studies, and technology publications in print.