Is consumer-focused Mountain Lion too soon for enterprise?
By John Rizzo
Taking many by surprise, Apple yesterday announced Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion and Mac OS X Server 10.8 and released a beta to developers. Apple announced new features, mostly in the form of iPad apps and features ported to Mac. Apple did not announce any new features in Mac OS X Server 10.8.
Coming only seven months after the release of Lion, and due for release this summer, Mountain Lion is moving faster than it usually takes for many businesses to update to a new OS. Enterprise organizations typically take 2 or 3 years to fully transition to a major new Windows release. Not only has it not been 3 years since Lion shipped, but it has not yet been 3 years since the release of Snow Leopard, Lion's predecessor.
Caution is not unwarranted, even for Macs. For instance, it took almost seven months for Apple to fix Lion's Active Directory bugs, with the release of Mac OS X 10.7.3 Lion two weeks ago. But the cost of upgrading hundreds or thousands computers in enterprise is significant, in terms of the price of the upgrade and the labor to test, install, and troubleshoot problems.
Analysts at Gartner estimated that 42% of PCs worldwide were running Windows 7 by the end of last year. Adoption rates of new Mac OS X builds are higher than those of new Windows builds, but most Macs are owned by consumers, who are earlier adopters of new OS builds than businesses.Caption: iMessage on iPad, Mac with Mountain Lion, and iPhone
As of November of 2011, Lion was the third most popular Mac OS, behind Snow Leopard and Leopard, according to Chitika. At that time, 56% of Macs were booted from Snow Leopard, while 16% of Macs were running Lion. More recently, data from Net Applications, which looks at Internet traffic, put the Lion number at 34% in January 2012.
Which means that even among consumers, most Mac users are still running Snow Leopard.
With so many Snow Leopard Macs, there is a question of whether Apple permit Macs running Snow Leopard to skip Lion and upgrade to Mountain Lion. Apple does not enable upgrading from Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard to 10.7 Lion with out first paying for and installing an upgrade to 10.6 Snow Leopard. But the time between the release of Leopard and Lion -- 4 years -- was longer than the 3 years between Snow Leopard and Mountain Lion, a year less time for people to upgrade. In this beta (Developer Preview), Apple is allowing users of Snow Leopard to skip Lion for Mountain Lion.
With Apple trying to merge the user experience for Mac OS X and iOS, Apple may be trying to merge the upgrade rates. Adoption rates are high for major new iOS builds, which now come every year. iOS updates are free, but iTunes keeps bugging you to upgrade every time you plug the device into the computer. This is likely not a feature most IT departments would like to see in Mac OS X, considering the growing number of iPads being purchased by large businesses.
The new functionality in Mountain Lion that Apple announced are focused on consumer features, which Apple says are inspired by iPad. Mountain Lion includes several iOS 5 apps and features, including Reminders, Notification Center, Notes, iMessage (which replaces iChat), and Game Center. The content from these and other features are automatically synced with iOS 5 devices through Apple's iCloud.
Notably missing was Siri, the voice-interfaced artificial intelligence feature of the iPhone 4S. It is possible, however, that Apple is likely to announce more Mountain Lion features during the next few months or at the launch of Mountain Lion.