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Alliance aims for better Apple Macs and Windows integration

IT managers generally don't think Macs integrate well with Windows machines. A vendor group hopes to change their minds.

Five vendors that build Macintosh and Windows integration products want to change IT's notion that Macs are tough to manage in the Windows enterprise.

The companies, which are Atempo Inc., Centrify Corp., Group Logic Inc., LANrev Inc., and Parallels Inc., have formed the Enterprise Desktop Alliance. The group targets Windows IT professionals who believe that Apple Macs are great for creative departments but are trouble to manage with the general population of Windows desktops.

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The alliance, which launches this week, will offer white papers and, in terms of deliverables, the integration of its members' software. The vendors' array of products includes systems lifecycle management tools, live real-time backup, print and file sharing software, cross-platform management software and desktop virtualization software.

The group's initial goal is education, said Peter Frankl, chief operating officer at LANrev, an Addison, Texas-based company that makes client management software. For the most part, Macs are in most enterprises but they tend not to be used by the main corporate population. Rather, they are used by art-intensive or marketing departments, and IT doesn't give them the same attention as the PCs.

The alliance members also want to debunk what they believe is the mistaken idea that PCs have a lower cost of ownership than Macs. Frankl said he has seen customer studies where the reverse is actually true.

Much depends on how total cost of ownership is measured. While the hardware cost of a Mac may be more, the cost may be less over the life of the product, said Bob O'Donnell, an analyst at IDC, the Framingham, Mass.-based market research firm.

"If Macs need less tech support, you could make the argument that the TCO on a Mac over four years can be lower," he said. "But then, people will say, I have X dollars and need X systems so you tell me how to make that work."

Pushback on Apple Mac

Frankl said large enterprises are seeing more interest in Macs, particularly since Apple's introduction of the iPhone last year. Executives like the iPhone and subsequently they will request the MacBook Pro, he said.

But convincing IT managers in Windows shops to change won't be easy. "Macs are not easily integrated into a domain structure as far as Active Directory is concerned," said Mike Stump, director of information technology at Roundtable Corp., which is the Dallas, Texas-based company that manages the Dairy Queen franchises.

"Also, the Mac OS is built on Unix, which is unbelievably open, so I would be more worried about [future] security holes with Macs on the network than PCs," he added

Casie Protank is a growing environmental company based in Vineland, N.J., and Dan Lein, the systems administrator and facility manager, said the company is constantly buying computers and working to get its different locations into some sort of standard. He's not totally against the idea of using Macs, but cost and training is an issue.

"If we replaced hardware, we might consider Macs or even Linux, but it would probably cost too much in hardware to make it worthwhile," said Lein, who also said he believes he would have to overcome some training hurdles within IT.

But Frankl said all the tools that are used to manage Windows machines are there for the Mac too. It's not necessary to have a separate group of individuals managing Macs. There are also fewer issues with application compatibility than in years past.

IDC's O'Donnell said the alliance has good timing because Apple's overall stature has risen, mostly because of its consumer technology. Apple has not been aggressive about dealing with the enterprise, "but clearly there is some momentum," said O'Donnell.

Corporations are looking over their client strategy and trying to decide if they want to move to Windows Vista, thin clients or virtual clients. "The Mac is just one more option," he said.

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