When the Macworld Conference & Expo kicks off next week, attendees can expect the usual buzz around consumer products – Steve Jobs is expected to formally unveil iTV, a video streaming device, during his keynote address on Tuesday and there is speculation that a new iPod and perhaps even an iPhone will be introduced. But there also will be a heightened focus on enterprise customers as Apple has in the past couple years bolstered its standing as a viable server alternative in corporate data centers.
Attendees can expect more details on Apple’s next release of its Unix-based operating system, OS X 10.5, code-named Leopard, for instance. Leopard’s debut is slated for the spring, but industry observers say Jobs may give an earlier date for its release during his talk. The operating system, which Jobs previewed at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco in August, has a number of new features, including an updated version of Boot Camp, software now in beta that lets Windows run on Apple machines.
Other updates in Leopard include easier setup and search on the server side, a well as iCal Server, which lets users share calendars and perform other collaborative tasks. On the desktop, Leopard updates include an automated backup system called Time Machine and expanded Spotlight search, enabling users to search across networked machines.
In line with Apple’s growing enterprise focus, Macworld attendees will find an enhanced MacIT Conference, three days of training sessions designed for corporate Apple customers. The conference runs Wednesday through Friday and is aimed at educating IT executives about a range of issues, including integrating Macs into heterogeneous environments, imaging and deploying Mac systems and securing Mac environments.
About 40,000 people are expected to attend Macworld, which runs Monday through Friday at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, compared with some 38,000 attendees last year, according to show organizer IDG World Expo, a sister company of Network World. As for the MacIT Conference, about 750 attendees are expected, compared with 375 who showed up for the debut conference in 2003.
About 400 exhibitors, with more than 100 first-timers, will pack both the north and south halls of the convention center, says Paul Kent, vice president of MacWorld.
Dan O’Donnell, collaboration coordinator and Macintosh administrator at RAND, a nonprofit research organization based in Santa Monica, Calif., says he’s heading to Macworld to attend sessions primarily on security issues and also to “kick the tires” on new hardware that may be introduced. In addition, O’Donnell is presenting at the MacIT Conference on Friday regarding his use of Common Criteria tools to ensure Mac OS X is as secure as it can be.
Apple by the numbersWhile the rest of the Unix market struggled, Apple enjoyed a nice uptick in sales of its Mac OS X operating system, though its boost in revenue comes primarily from the desktop side, according to IDC.
“The show has really evolved. For a long time it was a consumer-oriented show and those of us who are from the enterprise space – there weren’t very many of us – would use it as a place to meet and compare notes,” O’Donnell says. “Now Macintosh in the enterprise is becoming more recognized and there are tracks that are specifically for us enterprise people. We don’t have to sneak off anymore.”
Macworld’s Kent agrees, noting that the show has increased its offerings for enterprise professionals during the past four years.
“People have come to know that Macworld is the place where they can get enterprise training,” he says. “And this is training on Apple’s enterprise products, everything from the Xserve to the RAID products to their parallel computing products and also how Macs integrate with other technologies. One of the hottest topics right now is this rapidly converging world of Mac OS and the Windows operating system.”
Schoun Regan, who owns Mac training firm ITInstruction.com in Lexington, Ky., and is this year’s chair of the MacIT Conference, says he’s seeing more interest in Apple systems among Windows shops.
“This is because of [Macs now running on] the Intel chipset and because people are understanding that Mac OS X is a robust, scalable and secure operating system,” he says.
At MacWorld last year, Jobs introduced the first Intel-based Mac product and announced that the company’s entire product line would transition from the PowerPC to Intel processors during the course of the year.
“The impact of Apple’s migration to Intel is really very large,” O’Donnell says. “It allows running Windows on Apple hardware either native or virtualized, and this is good for users, systems administrators, Apple and Microsoft. Everybody wins and nobody loses. More than anything I think we’ll see this increase the usage of Macs in enterprise space.”
As a result, IT executives who may be taking a first serious look at Macs should consider Macworld a testing ground, O’Donnell says.
“A lot of my peers in IT or systems administration are really Windows people and when someone mentions Macs to them, they remember way back when, when they were in college. It’s all different now,” he says. “They need to be cognizant that [Mac OS X] is a much more robust operating system and works better with Windows. They need to keep an open mind.”
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