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Apple forcing IT shops to "adapt or die"

John Cox | Feb. 1, 2012
Many IT departments are struggling with Apple's "take it or leave it" attitude, based on discussions last week at MacIT, which is Macworld|iWorld's companion conference for IT professionals.

I can only think that the reason he wasn't tarred and feathered was that his early morning audience was not yet awake, or they had already resigned themselves to adapting IT and business practices to whatever new form is required to make use of Apple products. Later, a manager with one software vendor suggested that the reason a riot didn't break out was because "there were no procurement officers or CFO's in the audience."

This manager, who requested anonymity, noted a related problem: for individual apps over a certain amount, "gifting" them to users under VPP can be considered "compensation" under federal income tax rules.

Another "tip" from a speaker on the same panel, John Welch, director of IT at The Zimmerman Agency, was a reminder that "In signing up [for VPP], you have to create a new VPP [iTunes] account even if you already have existing ones." Currently, iTunes accounts are created using Apple IDs.

"Apple IDs can be confusing," admitted White.

It's certainly confusing for Northwest College, in Powell, Wyo. Sam Rodriguez, computing services analyst, said the college is piloting about 30 iPod touches and 50 iPads with instructors. "Right now, it's just a free for all," he said. "What I've found is the iPad is a very individualized machine. It's not a laptop with [the capacity of creating] different user profiles."

That seems like a key insight, to me. Apple's emphasis has been less on the "personal computer" and more on the "individual computer" - something made feasible by the company's relentless and clearly successful focus on the "user experience," making the machine interface as minimal, as simple as possible.

A glimpse into the individual response to this focus is found in an off-hand comment, during a session on large-scale iOS deployments, by Maribel Guizar-Maita, IT manager for Alum Rock Union Elementary School District in Santa Clara, Calif., which in 2011 distributed 1,000 iPads to students and faculty. She was asked if any had been damaged by the students. While noting the iPads currently are not taken home from the school, "we find students love them," she said. "They are very protective of these devices." There aren't many products that engender "love."

The unyielding goal of an individual device is serving an individual user, whose desires and wants are the only criterion. That certainly dovetails with the "spirit of the age." But in an organization, by definition, the one and the many exist in a relationship, ideally in a symbiotic relationship.

With iOS, IT groups are facing a "significant paradigm change," said consultant Ben Greisler. He described the challenge of one client, in education, who hired him to sort out a batch of technical issues. Eventually, he concluded that the real problem was not technology but people, specifically, how these people approached problems. Both Mac OS X and iOS "approach things differently." So IT professionals have to, also.


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