Apple’s Leopard may give it bite of business

Apple’s Leopard may give it bite of business

Apple has released it's operating system into the wild

Apple has launched its latest Macintosh operating system (OS) and may have its best chance in over a decade to win business market share from Windows.

Leopard sports a new-look user interface designed to rid desktops of clutter by removing overlapping windows and standalone icons and replacing them with new views of programs, files and data. A feature called Time Machine also creates automated backup routines. The Leopard server OS will fit into mainstream corporate environments through integration with Microsoft’s Active Directory and a calendaring server that supports Microsoft Outlook.

Although Microsoft’s dominance of the business desktop and closed-source volume server is secure in the near term, Apple’s remarkable progress in the consumer sector appears to be having a knock-on effect with desktop and mobile computer products up 34 per cent over last year.

Apple could also be boosted by changing patterns of work such as demand for mobility and superior media handling helping to wean corporate IT buyers off their Microsoft dependency.

Speed and simplicity could also help Apple capitalise on progress.

In recent interviews, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs has spoken of plans to post a new Mac OS release every 12 to 18 months, a momentum that would be faster than Microsoft’s planned cadence of a minor release every two years and a major one every four years.

Also, Apple takes a very different approach to pricing to Microsoft’s sprawling list of options and licence agreements. The Leopard release has a single price of £85.

“With Apple there’s no licensing complexity and we’re starting to see more non-traditional buyers such as firms of solicitors seeing the trendiness of the Apple brand as adding something to their businesses,” said Howard Cole, managing director of Albion, an Apple reseller.

Apple’s moves come as Microsoft customers continue to show a reluctance to move to Windows Vista but most watchers are cautious about the size of Apple’s business opportunity.

“Apple has been doing well but the numbers are still relatively small enough that I think it premature to say there's a material effect on Microsoft,” said Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff.

“As for Leopard, Microsoft versus Apple is a much broader question that the details of an OS X release.”

Also, Apple has had its own problems in execution. Leopard itself was delayed by four months and plans for a regular drumbeat of releases have often proven problematic for vendors seeking to make major changes to code. In the late 1990s, for example Apple’s ‘Copland’ operating system release was badly delayed, prompting Apple to acquire Next and adapt its OpenStep operating system for Apple hardware.