Switching Back To Windows – The End Of An Era


Cameron Sturdevant’s coverage of Apple products is coming to an end but, as we enter the cloud computing age, Sturdevant is less enamored of fat clients for office workers

For just over a year I’ve used a variety of Apple devices — from the Xserve and Mac Pro to the iPhone and MacBook Pro — and even a Mac Mini — as my primary work systems in a Windows-oriented IT shop.

I made the switch because Apple PCs and iPhones — and now iPads — are coming into the enterprise. I wanted to travel with IT managers who were acquiring skills and products to effectively manage these alluring, adept client devices that captivate the hearts and minds of high-value, and therefore important to please, employees.

The endorphin rush when things “just work”

Free Prize Draw: Win one of the first iPads in Britain
Free Prize Draw: Win one of the first iPads in Britain

With the help of desktop virtualisation tools that enabled me to easily access my email via the Microsoft Outlook client running on a Windows 7 virtual machine, my experience showed that a longtime Windows user can adjust to life on a Mac. I didn’t become a fanboy, but I experienced the endorphin rush that most Mac users speak of when things “just worked.”

I’m turning the “Apple in the Enterprise” beat over to the capable P. J. Connolly, who recently joined our staff. Connolly is a seasoned Mac user and brings a background of Apple coverage to eWEEK. He will continue our Mac-oriented product reviews and IT-oriented Apple analysis.

As I reflect on the important lessons I learned during my travel through the land of Apple, I still wonder about the usefulness of the fat client to the bulk of business IT. And it is this questioning that holds me back from fandom either for Apple’s “Snow Leopard” operating system or Microsoft’s Windows 7, the operating system I started using full-time today. But before I go too far into future musings on the changes in store for end-user computing, here are the lessons I learned from my year on Macs.

First, it was great to not worry about antivirus protection. My Mac got security updates — many of which required a reboot — almost as often as the Windows systems running in eWEEK Labs, but I never had to wait for a virus signature update or a pesky system scan. It was strangely odd to bank, check my credit card and shop online without really worrying about the security or safety of the personal computer (I was reminded many times by Apple users that Macs are PCs) I was using to visit those sites.

Second, it was awesome to have stuff “just work.” This was true for my Mac desktop and server systems as well as my iPhone. As much as I like to tinker with a PC or phone, from an IT operations point of view, having applications install and work correctly was a luxurious experience.

Finally, my MacWorld experience showed that enterprise management tools for Apple products are bobbing to the surface. IT managers in regulated industries should acquire tools that bring the Mac into the management fold for compliance reasons. Configuration management tools are also available to help ensure that required software and patches are available so end users can concentrate on work, not system management.

Although Apple and Microsoft marketing encourages a childish snarling contest between the platforms, my experience showed me that IT managers must take a no-nonsense approach to system management. Once a corporate decision is made to support multiple desktop operating systems, there’s no way a fan-based attitude toward one OS is going to make it easy or cheap to manage a second or third platform.

Despite the fun I had learning my Mac systems, what is becoming clear is that as I do more work on hosted applications my end-user priorities are shifting. In my changing enterprise world I care more about display size, network response time and remote printer support than whether my local PC is running Snow Leopard, Windows 7 or Linux.

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