June 10, 2009, 10:36 AM — The biggest thing coming to Apple desktops and notebooks is something they have needed forever: First-class support for Microsoft Exchange users. This means Apple laptops now make more sense than ever as a Windows replacement.
Of course, there is simply no excuse that Exchange support has taken Apple this long, giving us some idea of how important Apple considers business customers to be, which is not very. But, there are small signs that this is changing. Apple has been making the sort of teensy, incremental changes that make Macs and iPhones more welcome on big company networks and IT bosses seem to be noticing.
The other business user news from WWDC was new hardware encryption baked into the iPhone 3GS and, of course, lower hardware prices all around.
I have been complaining about poor Exchange support to successive Apple management teams since Steve Jobs was there the first time. And while the demo of the new Snow Leopard OS support for Exchange was impressive, I'll wait and see what ships in September.
Still, with the addition of Exchange support, there really is no reason a business user cannot select a MacBook Pro as their primary away-from-the-office PC. They are now competitively priced versus high-end Windows laptops, the Mac version of Microsoft Office works nicely, and they can even run Windows. What's not to like?
Besides Exchange support, Snow Leopard doesn't offer much in the way of immediate benefit to customers, as reflected in the $29 upgrade pricing, which is still too much.
Over the long term, Snow Leopard brings under-the-hood improvements that should keep Mac OS comfortably, but not incredibly, ahead of Windows. The beneficiaries of these changes will be future Apple hardware customers, more than current owners.
David Coursey doesn't personally need Exchange support, but will upgrade to Snow Leopard anyway, though he's not sure why. He tweets as dcoursey and can be reached via e-mail from www.coursey.com/contact.