After spending some amount of time around what could best be described as "corporate" America, I have one question to ask all of the IS/IT/CIO people out there:
"Why is the Mac flatly excluded from corporate desktops when a large portion of Pentium-based Windows9x-enabled computers are running some type of terminal emulation or even worse DOS-based software?"
I am being very serious here. Emulation is no big deal on the Mac, you can run nearly anything from TN3270 to Windows NT with appropriate Mac software and to some degree appropriate hardware. I have looked over the shoulders of many people using moderately new PCs in a wide range of businesses and the majority used some type of emulator program to access a mainframe or other database-orientated applications over a network of some kind.
Is the Mac not good at emulating termials? No there many different terminal emulation apps that work transparently with the host computer none the wiser. AS/400? Sure. Some other type of IBM Mainframe on a Token Ring network? Yep (although Apple recently dropped the Token Ring interface card). You can even connect a Mac to NT networks transparently with a product called DAVE from Thrusby Systems. There are even more solutions to connecting Macs to PCs to exchange data, mount volumes, print and administer the computer remotely.
In one of my past jobs the desk-riders were upgraded with Gateway2000 PCs running Windows that were almost exclusively running an AS/400 terminal emulator. There were some instances of a need for a Word Processor or other office software, but the AS/400 termial emulator was in use the vast majority of time.
Why couldn't a Mac, especially now an iMac, handle this work?
Dispelling the Myths
The Mac supports industry standard Ethernet, the predominately used high-speed networking interface hardware, industry standard TCP/IP networking that is adding more and more support for features like SNMP, DHCP and others. Plus Open Transport, Apple's advanced partially UNIX-derived networking software, is fully extensible utilizing a plugin module architecture that can easily accept totally new networking protocols and features without requiring OS support or updates from Apple.
Windows may support different pseudo-standards (having a 90% plus marketshare doesn't make your products "standard") out of the box that the Mac cannot, but with some third-party software that is a non-issue. If you dont believe me then grab a copy of NetProfessional and look at the reviews and product ads, you will see some things in there that will put to rest nearly all arugments for the "you cant put that MAC on my network" arguments from the IS/IT department.
And since when does a Certified Micronaught dictate what kind of computer the people who are going to be using them will have? Shouldn't the user's needs dictate the kind of computer they get? Maybe I am just used to having computer do what *I* want it to do instead of the other way around.
To even further squash the Anti-Mac policies is the wide availability of cross-platform software and even a few Mac-only products that perform just as well, or better, than the hundreds of klunky Windows software written in VisualBasic at 3 A.M. by a undergradute who recently consumed an entire six-pack of beer. Its not the quantity, its the quality. Would you rather have one car last several years that runs decently at a somehwat higher cost than have to constantly replace cheap klunkers? I thought so.
Even the "hardware is not upgradable, expandable, as fast or cheap" arguments are slipping away. The iMac is the perfect corporate terminal. Its powerful enough to run nearly all enterprise-type software, including many types of emulation programs, off its own ample sized hard disk and its built in networking supports not only 10BaseT Ethernet, but 100BaseT out-of-the-box with AutoDetection. No IRQ conflicts or the sudden realization by Windows9x that the Ethernet card is a foreign body and refuses to work.
Under the hood the iMac is an exact match to what most businesses need in a computer. Simple and fast with very few components to go bad a year or so later and a very decent price/performance. Couple these facts with all of the already existing vertical market software that has been reworked and refined over the years and you have a very serious alternative to the knee-jerk reaction of going Wintel in the corporate world.
And if there is some gap in the software lineup products like RealBASIC provide an efficient path to producing real Mac applications in minimal time. You can even import VisualBasic projects, which is what many vertial market applications in corporate America are made with.
Oh, and the iMacs look really sleek too. That just has to irk the IS/IT people - a computer that can't be interchanged with some ancient AT-style box sitting on the back shelf! What is the world coming to? Even Intel is admitting that the iMac is the future in computer style despite their very lame attempts at it (their Aztec pyramid inspired case is hideous *shudder*).
Slow, but steady
Apple is pushing forward, and soon will be pushing deep into the Enterprise markets. With the release of Mac OS X Server you should start to see some reversals in the anti-Mac policies, at least in smaller corporate environments and education. Once the people holding the purse strings start to realize how bad their situation is being in bed with the flailing Microsoft there could very well be a mass-exodous to the Mac side of the fence.
It may already be happening, MacCentral reported recently that over 40 different newspapers were converted over primarily to the Macintosh computing platform. If they can do it, why cant a Fortune 500 company?
All of us who have been here all this time can just sit back and smile and say "what took you so long?"