Consumers who attend Macworld Expo Web will have multiple course options to choose from. But IT professionals will have almost no sessions to attend at this week's event in San Francisco. In fact, the first course offered to "Mac Managers" is called "Linux for the PPC".
That sums up the situation for the venerable Macintosh as the alternate operating system in corporations these days. No longer is it considered the long-shot underdog among the fire-breathing opposition to anything from Microsoft, Linux now plays that role.
Apple Computer did make a bit of a comeback with the return of Steve Jobs, who may be wishing he remained interim CEO instead of taking the position full time. But that comeback was built on the narrow shoulders of an installed base desperate for new machines and first-time buyers enamoured by computers that came in jujube colors. Broad-based, deep-pocketed corporate IT buyers have been ignored by Jobs and his product planners. As a quick fix to Apple's financial woes, Job's strategy worked. But as a long-term plan for the Mac's success, it's failing.
Apple's confused server OS strategy (another colour-coded mystery that devolved into something called "X" or "10" by supporters) hobbled the company just as Linux was making inroads into IT shops. And Linux servers run things IT really wants, such as Internet applications. Mac servers run, well, file and print services for Macs, which Windows and Linux do just as well. Today, there's no reason for IT managers to consider the Mac in their product plans, which is appropriate since Apple doesn't think of them either.
Now this may not mean that Apple will go belly up or that the Mac will go the way of the NeXT cube. But it does mean that Apple, which once held a credible position inside large enterprises, is now completely irrelevant to the IT professionals who shape the way computing will be done in the future.
Again, this is no eulogy for the Mac. It remains the best machine to create music on, and it still rules in the production departments of publishing and graphics businesses. But these markets are eroding for Apple, and neither is enough to sustain the kind of research and development it takes to build an operating system and developer community.
What will become of the Mac then? It could possibly offer the best user interface on Linux. That should make Macworld Expo's "Linux for the PPC" class a sellout.