Employees might like iPhones, but Gartner says Apple doesn't have a clue how to do computers for business at anything like a reasonable price.
In a debate at the Gartner Symposium in Sydney, Nick Jones argued the case that Apple would never be a viable enterprise technology provider, while his fellow analyst Robin Simpson took the case for Apple's role in business. However, despite the fact that a high percentage of the audience were iPhone-toting Apple lovers, it was Jones who made the more forceful argument.
"Apple's management tools are a joke," Jones said. "Apple decides which applications you get and if they don't like an application, you don't get it. There's lots of applications Apple don't like which could be very useful to you. As an enterprise platform, it's a joke."
"There's no way you can call Apple an enterprise vendor. The bare minimum is not enough for enterprises."
Jones pointed to the fact that the iPhone's Exchange synchronisation tells Exchange it offers encryption when it actually doesn't as indicative of Apple's dismissive attitude towards business IT in general. "They don't care about lying to you because encryption doesn't matter to consumers."
Cost is a major consideration that businesses can't ignore, he added. "It's expensive. This is a device that gobbles data faster than a shark in a feeding frenzy. You are being royally ripped off. iPhone is basically a device for price-insensitive fashion victims."
Power usage was another weak point for the iPhone. "You've got a phone you have to charge up every day. Charging up the phone every day is pretty retro."
Jones argued that despite the checking system, security flaws were likely to emerge on the iPhone. "Over the next few years, things like the App Store are going to be a rich source of security problems in the enterprise."
Jones also suggested that Apple would be highly resistant to the emerging HTML 5 standard, which might make it possible to deliver complicated applications via the iPhone browser without enduring Apple's infamous application approval process. "I bet you they cripple HTML 5 as well," he said. "I do not believe Steve Jobs' piratical view wants apps loaded into the browser outside Steve Jobs' control, and that's what HTML 5 gives you."
As for Macs, Jones suggested that current market share made it clear there wasn't any real business case for Apple to go after enterprise users. "You have to think the numbers tell the story. About 1% of enterprise PCs are Macs; this is a teeny part of Apple's business. It doesn't make any economic sense for Steve Jobs to invest in enterprise support in any serious way."
The biggest problem with Macs as business PCs was the total cost of ownership, Jones said. "If you start using Macs, you start having to play silly games like supporting two OSes. If you look at our numbers, it costs you 58% more to have a Mac in your company than to have a PC in your company. The TCO is much higher. What is the business case for paying 58% more for a platform if you're not going to get 58% more work?"
Simpson argued that such metrics were likely to change as web-based applications became more commonplace and that in such an environment, Macs might easily be a useful adjunct outside of their traditional design and education strongholds. "My view is that Apple's done just enough, the bare minimum, to satisfy enterprise compatibility and manageability for a significant class of users. Apple has done enough to put itself into the appliance category. That class of users -- people who can use an appliance that does one job --is only going to grow."
Simpson also suggested that Mac users were likely to have lower support costs, though Jones wasn't having a bar of it. "Cisco tell me their biggest internal wiki is the Mac self-support wiki. If it was so easy to use a Mac, why would they need such a huge self-support wiki? And self-support means you're still paying the cost, just in a different area."