I was hired to go to work at Apple in October of 1984, only a few months after the Macintosh was introduced. My first official day was November 26, 1984. In one of the few moves in those days targeted at saving money, my partner and I did not get to start until after the sales conference that year. We were sure they just did not want to spend the money for another two tickets to Hawaii from Halifax, Nova Scotia.
My days at Apple lasted until July of 2004. This summer it will be ten years since I left Apple and a lot has changed at the company and in my life. In 1984, fresh out of two years in sales management at an Apple reseller, Macs were the only computers in my life.
Today I am down to two Macs and my life has more Windows and Android devices than Apple products. At the peak of our addiction, and I include my family since they were all Mac users, we had well over a dozen Macintoshes not counting my collection of old Macs. Today the total number of Macs across the five adults in the family numbers three. The two that I have and one iMac that my older daughter has. No one in the family has an iPad or an iPhone. Even my wife who loved her 12” Powerbook well beyond its useful life is now using a HP laptop. I think we might be able to find two or three old iPods in drawers.
With the drop in Apple products in our family, I started wondering if the technology in our lives might have been different if Apple had been even more successful particularly outside the consumer world.
Sometimes it is hard to imagine that arguably the world’s most successful technology company might have been more successful, but I expect if you could find other ex-Apple sales folks besides me willing to talk, you might find a number who would agree with me that Apple could have gone farther in the enterprise if they had wanted to do so.
Back in December on my Applepeels blog, I posted an entry, The Decision That Lost The Desktop For Apple. In it I make the argument that the pricing decisions that Apple made at the height of the popularity for the Macintosh II had a huge impact on Apple’s desktop market share.
You could take my reasoning a little further and say that we were all hurt by Apple’s punting on the enterprise market. Certainly the federal information technology world which needs all the help it can get. I have argued at ReadWrite that federal IT is a mess.
Then there is the rest of the enterprise and publishing market which actually kept Apple afloat until Steve Jobs discovered the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. My career at Apple ended roughly about the time that Apple figured out that selling to consumers was a whole lot easier than meeting the demands of fussy CIOs. As an Apple product manager famously once told me, “Customers do not tell us what to make, we tell them what to buy.”
But what if Apple had been successful in the enterprise market? Many of us believed that Apple had all the elements needed to be successful there except the support of Steve. We had a great operating system that was far more secure from viruses at a time when Windows was being swallowed alive by all sorts of threats. In those early days of OS X even Apple laptops and professional desktops were very competitively priced.
We were able to get token support from Steve on some federal requirements like SmartCard support, but there was never a serious push into the enterprise after Steve came back to Apple. There was only ever a handful of enterprise sales people at Apple and in spite of some recent rumblings reported by Business Insider I don't think that is going to really change. My guess is that the 100 enterprise people Apple is looking for probably just cover the ones that got too expensive on the payroll and were let go.
When my team took over the federal market for Apple, we started with one sales person on each coast, one system engineer, my area associate, and me. We joked that we could hold team meetings in my Previa van.
Still Apple and my federal team in particular was very successful in the federal market. Many CIOs were tired of being held over a barrel by Microsoft. The cost for Microsoft Client Access Licenses (CALs) was a thorn in the side of many federal CIOs. However, no CIO federal or otherwise was stupid enough to bet their whole enterprise on Apple which refused to say in public that the enterprise was important to the success of company.
One of my last meetings at Apple was taking Avie Tevanian in June 2004 to see Karen Evans, who at the time was the CIO for the whole federal government. Avie got wound up trying to convince Karen to start developing applications with WebObjects. Karen handed him his head and told him the federal government had moved to COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) software. She also asked him a question that sent him into a serious enough tailspin that I had to rescue him. She wanted to know why she should trust her important business to company that only ever talked about the consumer market and iPods?
The fact that Apple practically gave up on the federal market and has never taken a lot of the business world seriously left room for Microsoft to keep pounding away on their OS until they came up with Windows 7. The lack of a viable alternative to Microsoft meant they were to maintain their stranglehold on the feds. It also left a lot of the small business world firmly in the grip of Windows XP and its descendants.
My two older children are in IT and the youngest worked in a finance office. My wife worked in an insurance office and after Apple I sampled a number of different workplaces whose only common denominator like those of the rest of the family was that usually I was the only Mac user in groups as large as seventy to one hundred. I struggled through the pains of VISTA but was pleasantly surprised with Windows 7. I held off in getting a smartphone for a long time. A year after my son bought a Droid, I relented and followed his platform choice. I did not even consider an iPhone because the AT&T network was so bad here on the edges of civilization.
At WideOpen Networks job, I am happy to be back at a Mac centric company, but I am not going to give up my Windows gear. I like living in a multi-platform world and I know how fickle the winds of Apple are.
Had Apple been more successful in the enterprise market, my family might never have wandered away from the platform. Obviously Apple is very successful, but just imagine a world where you went to work and everyone was using Macs. I think Apple not pursuing the enterprise world left room for Microsoft to keep plugging away. There was a time when the argument that the Mac was a more secure platform was undeniable.
I stuck with Macs not because of any great love for Apple but because I like using the product. It is not inexpensive to use a Mac in spite of what some loyalists will tell you, but I find myself more productive doing certain things on a Mac so I have not given up on the platform.
Perhaps we have Apple to thank for the fact that we all can buy some pretty nice Windows hardware like my Lenovo Yoga at very reasonable prices and some great tablets like the inexpensive Nexus 7 that I have. If Apple had taken the enterprise market seriously and made some aggressive moves on pricing, this world might be even more Apple centric than it already is. Then again, all that success in the enterprise world might have distracted Apple and we would have never gotten the iPhone and iPad. Then it might have taken a long time for Android to develop and we would have all been stuck with Blackberries.
We will never know for sure.