Originally Posted by Alfiejr
if you read Ballmer's comment at the end carefully, he is not saying Apple will fail in the consumer market due to its integrated hardware/software model, he limits that remark to the enterprise market.
Exactly, and many people fail to understand that the enterprise market has nothing to do with the home user market. The rules are just not the same.
Many people make that mistake, for instance when they claim that Linux big advantage is that it's free. In the real enterprise world, Linux is barely less expensive than Windows. Anyway, if you're using your OS to run softwares like Autocad, Oracle, Websphere or a big CMS, the cost of the OS is dwarfed by the cost of the software and their maintainance.
Likewise, the OS is much less important than for a home user. On servers, you don't see the GUI most of the time anyway - hence why Linux works well on servers. But even on the desktop, most corporate users will spend their days using only a couple of applications. I just launch a few applications every time I reboot Windows, and that's about once a month, and they stay open day after day. My interaction with the OS is minimum - and as a developer, I'm considered a user with special needs in the enterprise context.
The OS is merely an application launcher. That's why enterprises are so slow to adopt Vista. Or even XP. Most of their needs are already covered by Windows 2000...
Apple could establish a modest but significant presence in the US enterprise market if it really tried really hard, but i don't believe it will. it's a different mind set, to be a services company (look at MobileMe).
I don't think it could, the gap is just too wide between Apple and the enterprise world.
You have no widely recognized certifications for Mac admins - something both Windows and Linux have. Any major company is able to hire certified admins for Linux or Windows with little risks thanks to the certification system. With Mac, that would be a complete gamble. With the added cost that Mac admins are a rarity.
Likewise, Mac computers are very expensive. Even worse, there is a gap between the iMac and the Mac Pro that is exactly where companies have their needs. You can't afford to buy Mac Pros for every developers, graphists...
But there is one potential competitor that really could take on and take half or more of MS's enterprise business away: Oracle! and given the size of Larry Ellison's ego, i bet one day they do.
I would also put my bets on Google... The current context is to move more and more business applications to web applications. They suit most business needs and they bring a lot of good things to the balance.
Web applications run fine on Linux servers (with Oracle, Java, Websphere...). And they run extremelly well on Google Chrome. Once Google stabilises its browser, it will be one of the best platform to run web applications on - because it's actually designed from scratch to do that. While Internet Explorer is one of the worst.
In this context, what do you need Windows (or MacOS) for? You don't need it on the server side and on the client side you only need it to run Google Chrome...