This is easily OS X's -- and, to a larger extent, Apple's -- most glaring yet completely ignored problem. To this day, the Orchard treats third-party developers like the proverbial redheaded stepchild, which results in significantly fewer third-party software options for Apple users than Windows users.
How much less? If someone really knows, I can't find them. Apple did a study -- can't take that at face value. Microsoft did a study -- same deal. I can't find a third-party objective study, so we've got to go with day-to-day experience on this one. When it comes to mission-critical, vertical-type business software, Windows clients far outnumber Apple clients. If they didn't, Macs would be populating a much larger number of corporate desktops.
And before all the Apple jihaders start listing Apple-compatible equivalents that will do anything I might be able to name, that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about walking into potential client businesses and finding an OS layer that's appropriate for their needs. They're going to name a series of software apps that they must have. They don't want to switch those to something else and retrain and convert and take time away from business. They simply want to keep running what they know on the latest OS platform. This is where Apple drops the ball time and time again.
What really steams my clams about this is that I ding Vista for app compatibility and Microsoft has been working to correct it for the last five years. But Apple has been making this mistake for the last two decades and refuses to do anything about it. Apps are lacking, Java compatibility is chronically behind, and most of Apple's dev efforts are aimed at a glorified MP3 player, for God's sakes. From a business-oriented network manager perspective, that's just not attractive.
Still, Vista passed this on the basis of testing. If your apps work, go ahead; if they don't, look elsewhere. Same applies to the Mac.
Grade: Pass (grudgingly)
Similar to software, this is another business lesson that Apple simply isn't willing to learn. Business users like standardized and open hardware platforms. It leaves them free to hunt for bargains and to install third-party components without worrying about long-term hardware compatibility. Apple doesn't care. Want OS X? You're buying your hardware from Apple or you're pulling some VMware hacking stunt.
This used to be even more problematic when Apple was much more expensive than comparable PC platforms. Today, however, Macs are only somewhat more expensive. And they look cool. But even so, Apple doesn't do anything to attract business users. The company doesn't advertise business buying programs, warranties, or leasing offers. Apple might do them, but if you're the average harried business buyer, the company makes you hunt for them. That's a mistake.
From a purely technical standpoint, however, the hardware is OK, and if that sounds mediocre, it is. Apple machines look great, but from pure feature comparisons I would have rated my MacBook Pro as middle of the road. I've seen notebooks from Gateway, for instance, that had more USB ports, a card reader, spare batteries, fingerprint encryption and better battery life all in the same form factor and for less bucks.
Using Orchard hardware isn't sublime joy, either. Personal experience has the screen on my MacBook warping slightly (which wasn't a big deal) and the hard disk heaving a death rattle after four months (which was a big deal). Apple replaced the hard disk with no worries since it was still under warranty, but that's a pretty short time frame for serious hardware failure. (What really annoyed me was Venezia's Apple-loving weasel response: "But that's Fujitsu's fault, not Apple's." If Apple support had said that, I'd have gone to Cupertino and shot somebody.)