I know lots of people who once worked at Apple, and now no longer work there. However, I don't know many that left gracefully. Apple is a company that demands certain characteristics that are hard to maintain over time. One is near blind loyalty. You have to drink the koolaide and follow Steve wherever he may go. Trying to go in a different direction from Steve can be painful and career limiting.
Steve doesn't mince any punches about what kind of company Apple is. He continually tells employees, even his enterprise sales force, that Apple isn't an enterprise company. Yet Apple products meet the needs of some enterprises, and those customers continue to purchase the products in spite of Steve being very clear about Apple not being an enterprise company. While Steve is busy saying Apple isn't an enterprise company, there are plenty of enterprise people at Apple, they just live in this nether world of not being part of Apple's focus. They continually get the short end of the stick.
My guess is that people at Apple corporate who work on the retail stores project or perhaps in the iTunes teams live in a far different world than the people whom Apple has hired to sell products to market that isn't really embraced by Apple.
All of Apple's policies are designed to support the consumer market especially the extreme secrecy that surrounds the new product announcements. Actually enterprise customers do not thrive on surprises. They're much more interested in product road maps and the security of knowing that they can deploy the same desktop over time without having to worry about the product changing whenever Steve gets an itch.
Perhaps the inevitable failure of Apple in the enterprise market is one of the greatest regrets that many ex-Apple field people have. You work for years at Apple with the full knowledge that your company doesn't particularly believe in what you're doing. You know that Steve doesn't because if you've been to many Apple sales conferences, he has probably told you exactly that.
Yet you know that many enterprise customers have for years been looking for alternatives to the Microsoft platform. You're so close to meeting their needs, yet there is always one thing that you can't convince Apple to do, whether it is providing enterprise level repair services or the kind of support that enterprise customers need.
Yesterday morning I was in my home office when the phone rang. It was an old Apple customer who actually runs one of the few Apple shops on Capitol Hill. Apparently he had a server meltdown the day before and had started calling Apple phone numbers. He finally got down his list to me before he got a live person to answer the phone.
His complaints were that he had hired Apple for some support and that now that he was having problems, he could find no one to talk to in his moment of crisis. There had also been problems registering his support agreement. I broke the news to him that I had not been with Apple since July 2004. I dug out some Apple cell phone numbers and wished him well. In my mind I knew I was talking to someone who finally had just about had it with Apple. It didn't have to be that way. Apple could easily have hired a credible number of engineers to really establish the Xserve in enterprise accounts.
That could have happened, but that's not Apple. Apple in spite of successes in storage and servers, is still at its heart, a consumer company. If you expect more, you're likely to be disappointed.
Likely that is the reason that many ex-Apple people feel that they have been part of company that could have been so much greater. There were a few pivotal times when Apple could have made different decisions that perhaps might have left us with a different desktop landscape, staying with the enterprise might have been one of those decisions. I'm not one who one believed for a moment that it was impossible for Apple to do both consumer and enterprise business. If Steve had wanted it, it would have happened.
Staying out of the enterprise was a matter of conscious decisions by a management team that really never valued the enterprise. Certainly they have enough money in the bank now to have hired plenty of support people to answer the phones when an important customer's server has gone down. Just as certainly, they haven't done so.
That's really not a subtle message to those enterprises that are seriously considering Apple as a vendor. Many will miss the message since Steve isn't doing much to make it really loud and clear to those enterprise customers still under the spell of Apple products. That would hurt business too much since Apple makes its best margins in the enterprise space. That's means you don't want to publicly abandon them, you just want to make as much money as possible with the minimal level of commitment.
Just remember if you buy Apple for your enterprise, you'll be on your own. The products are great, but they come from a dyed in the wool consumer company which more and more butters it bread with products like the iPod. Consider yourself warned.
One of these days, Apple might figure out that if they're going to sell products that people bet their businesses and careers on, Apple had better figure out how to deliver services as good as the products.
Now wouldn't that be a change at Apple?
Updated with information below
I had contact with some Apple folks and they suggested that I post this direct support number for Apple Enterprise and Federal Customers.
I would be interested in hearing in the comments section about how well the number works. Who knows maybe Apple cares more about the enterprise than I thought.