The quiet time forced upon us by the recession gave us all an opportunity to do some window shopping — to consider technology that we weren’t prepared to buy and to ponder the new solutions we could craft with it. That put new client and server platforms on IT’s radar. The Mac client platform is a good place to start any examination.
Apple is positioning the Mac client platform — primarily OS X running on PowerBooks — as a one-stop productivity and connectivity environment. I can sum up the impact of the Mac client platform on my daily work in one sentence: I no longer jump between my notebook and my desktop. Even when I was a devotee of Windows, I was never able to turn a Windows notebook into my primary living quarters.
If I never wrote a line of code or edited one frame of video, I’d still appreciate the Mac client’s capability of running the software I use everyday: Microsoft Office and other native OS X graphical applications, true Windows software in the Virtual PC x86 emulator, Unix text applications, Unix apps with X11 graphical front ends, and Java clients running on a Java Virtual Machine tuned and validated by Apple’s engineers. Running OS X client software on the Power Mac G5 is just as productive, with the added benefits of speed, wired connectivity, and display real estate.
Apple and Microsoft are pushing Mac-client technology ahead at a fast clip. Microsoft recently released Office 2004 with capabilities I prefer to its Windows counterpart because the Mac hosts it so well, and because the engineers in Microsoft’s Mac business set a higher standard than making a clone of Office for Windows.
The Virtual PC 7 x86 emulator is not yet released, but the new version’s compatibility with the Power Mac G5 will make it more useful for those times when you absolutely must use a PC.
The Mac platform allows IT to control and monitor, from a central location, everything users can do with their Macs, and perform deep troubleshooting operations.
OS X’s user and group policy and profile management capabilities are similar to those built into Windows 2003 Server. With the addition of the $US499 Apple Remote Desktop 2.0, centralised management of clients extends to hardware.
I consider Apple’s client technology story to be the strongest. I am not mourning the death of AMD64, Bluetooth, or rewritable optical media.
Of course, Apple could still screw this up. It could mess up by allowing the quality of its overseas manufacturing slide by offering anything less than stellar repair and support, or by failing to keep its essential ties to the open source community strong.
But mark my words: OS X will trounce Linux on the desktop (notebooks are a given) and give Microsoft a fast-moving target for Longhorn.