Three things for admins to look out for with the advent of Mac Lion

With continued success in the marketplace, it is likely that Mac Lion will incorporate many of the favorite features of Apple's popular tablets and phones. Erik Eckel points out three issues that admins will likely encounter in the coming months.

When Apple releases Mac OS X Lion in summer 2011, the new OS will introduce changes. I'm already on record stating the Lion OS will simplify administrators' lives. Not everyone agrees, and not everyone believes the OS possesses implications for enterprise administrators, and that's fair. But if Apple's latest earnings statement is any indication, enterprise administrators are certainly going to see Apple products, including new Macs, in their offices.

Stop for a moment to digest the particulars of Apple's earnings announcement. In a still-struggling economy the company drove earnings 78% on its way to posting record revenue. During the last quarter, Apple sold more than four million Macs. More telling, the company sold 16 million iPhones and some 7 million iPads. Those are enormous numbers.

What do they mean for enterprise administrators? Plenty.

1. Sizzling interest equates to LAN presence

Apple owns market momentum. Consumers are buying Apple products in record numbers. In the process, they're becoming accustomed to Apple's adoption of intuitive touchpad gestures, concentrated full-screen application operation and self-help online application stores.

When Lion is released, enterprise administrators are going to find everyone from board members to clerical staff bringing Macs with the new OS on site. I'm often struck by how many companies make significant investments in Windows and even Blackberry server infrastructure, then end up supporting Apple technologies, too, because top executives and others demand the IS department implement iPhone support because that's the smartphone that they insist on using.

The same is likely to occur with Lion. Enterprise administrators should familiarize themselves with the release if for no other reason than they'll be seeing it on their networks.

2. A trend toward simplification

Much of Apple's earnings success is due to its ability to create powerful devices that are simple to use. Look for Lion to bring the features (full-screen apps, multitouch input gesturing and centralized app store in particular) popularized in iPhones and iPads to Macs and desktop/laptop computing.

Applications, which users are becoming accustomed to purchasing, downloading, and updating themselves from using their iPads and iPhones will more closely mimic the dedicated operation also found on iPhones and iPads. Only now they'll be using full-fledged computers. Apple's new trackpads will enable the use of multitouch gestures, including between active applications and the user's desktop, too.

In short, as end users and executives become accustomed to, and arguably have developed a preference for, using and interacting with Apple phones and tablets, they're going to desire similar experiences on their laptop and desktop computers. IT departments should understand and respect the trend, even if they don't necessarily agree with it.

Just as Microsoft and others are scrambling to catch up with Apple by improving the design and operation of their phones and tablet computers, these competitors are likely to begin replicating common Apple features on their own platforms. Harnessing some of the interest, and encouraging users to become more educated regarding computers and their use, can improve both relations and productivity.

3. Server strategy becomes clearer

Apple's server platform appears to be in flux, the tide seemingly headed toward smaller networks with the decommissioning of the Xserv platform. While Apple servers can still scale, especially when leveraging the Xsan file system over fibre channel networks, Apple's move certainly consolidates its server offerings.

Apple server hardware now consists of just Mac Pros and Mac Minis, with the latter quickly becoming the popular choice due to their ease of use and demand within smaller organizations. Questions remain, however, as to which direction Apple will proceed with a server product in the enterprise space.

When Apple releases Mac OS X Lion, the investments (or lack thereof) made to its server version (assuming there is a server version of Lion) will become clear. Larger organizations may find additional features or functionality tailored specifically to their needs. Or not. Most telling may be the lack of information surrounding the server edition just months before its release.

By Erik Eckel

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...