I was all set to post an article about Mac BU’s place in Microsoft’s recent reorg, when John Welch at bynkii.com posted this. I appreciate John’s advocacy on behalf of Mac BU. His heart’s always been in the right place. Unfortunately, John’s understanding of some of the underlying facts of Mac BU’s life results in advocacy that’s pointed in the wrong direction. And, equally unfortunate is the truth is that there might not be any direction to which one might rightfully direct the essential core of John’s message.

John’s reasoning is based on two general observations. The first is his perception of Mac BU’s place in the new organization of Microsoft. The second is the extent to which Mac Office is able to support certain platform technologies that are in the Win Office box. I’ll address each in turn, but I should point out that John’s failure to apprehend all the relevant facts is not John’s fault. As he points out, he doesn’t have an inside view of things.

To an outsider, Microsoft’s recent reorg and the fact that Mac BU was not, as a result, brought within the purview of Steven Sinofsky’s group can look rather suspicious. After all, if this reorg is about product development, then it would seem to make sense for Microsoft’s business solution on the Macintosh to be managed within the same corporate structure as Microsoft’s business solutions on Windows.

That picture, however, relies on a rather myopic view of “product development,” which, as anyone who has read my blog for any length of time ought to know, involves much more than simply sitting down and writing a few lines of code. The singularly most important factor in product development is the accuracy of your summation of your target market. Indeed, if you view Microsoft’s reorg in terms of simply rearranging relationships within Microsoft, it doesn’t make much sense (which is why people like Joe Wilcox have been scratching their heads about this).

Rather, the point of Microsoft’s reorg is to rearrange groups along the lines of relationships with customers and partners. Thus, Business Solutions and Information Worker come under the same general “business” rubric, because their customer bases are almost identical.

If there’s one lesson we learned from Mac Word 6.0 it’s that Win Office customers are not at all like Mac Office customers. Lumping Mac BU in with Information Worker and Business Solutions, then, provides no benefit to Mac BU in terms of improving customer and partner relationships. Indeed, such a move could only harm Mac BU’s ability to target our unique customer base.

Moreover, such an organizational change would likely have no positive effect on our relationship with the Win Office group—a relationship that has been, and remains, rather healthy. Steven Sinofsky has always been very receptive to requests from us, and we’ve worked closely with people like Brian Jones and the Win Office development group in our efforts to support the upcoming Office 12 file formats.

The second pillar buttressing John’s argument is Mac Office’s support, or lack thereof, for various features and technologies that are currently available to Win Office users. These include such features as LiveMeeting, Information Rights Management, SharePoint Services and Content Management Server. With respect to these technologies, John writes, “If Microsoft wants people to buy [Mac] Office 12 in any quantity it has to become, as much as technically possible, the equal of Office 12 on Windows. [Emphasis added.]”

Well, it’s a good thing he tossed in the throw-away “as much as technically possible” qualifier, because it allows him to direct his ire in just about any direction he wants to. The problem with that qualifier is the way it relies on the word “possible.” Substitute the word “feasible” in its place, and the qualifier takes on a whole new meaning, and one which, I contend, is far closer to reality than John’s article implies.

Consider, for example, Information Rights Management. In order to provide support for this, several pieces need to be in place. First, the OS needs to provide a way for users to properly authenticate against an Active Directory domain. Secondly, the OS needs to provide applications developers with a set of APIs that provide both a way to retrieve those credentials and a way to match those credentials against some kind of access control list for specific objects in the system. And that’s just to allow users to open documents that have IRM restrictions attached to them. Providing a way for users to attach IRM restrictions to an existing document has yet another set of technical challenges.

Now, it’s certainly possible for anyone to implement some sort of solution for this, kludgey as it might be, but for whom is it most feasible? Well, IRM is a platform technology. Of all the players in this arena, the one for whom the work is most feasible would be the provider of the platform: Apple. If we use the word “feasible” instead of the word “possible,” we can easily reword John’s sentence to read, “If Apple wants the Macintosh to succeed in the enterprise market, then the Macintosh has to become, as much as is technically feasible, as supportive of key technologies as Windows,” without a significant loss in rhetorical value. There is no particular reason to single out Microsoft for responsibility rather than looking toward Apple for a solution.

The problem with feasibility, however, is that it introduces a wide variety of variables that makes it very difficult to advocate the kind of imperative that John wants to express. Apple’s very survival is predicated on differentiating the features of Mac OS X from the features available in Windows. Is it “feasible” for Apple to divert resources away from differentiating Mac OS X from Windows in order to make Mac OS X equally attractive as Windows as a platform upon which ISVs can build enterprise solutions? The only people who can adequately answer that question work at Apple.

The point is not to try to redirect John’s ire away from Microsoft and toward Apple. As unfair as I think John’s reproach is, I think it would be equally unfair to single out Apple for reproach. Microsoft’s collective desire to sell copies of Mac Office isn’t any greater or less than Apple’s desire to sell Macintoshes in the enterprise. The truth is that we all have our priorities, and that the net result of these various priorities sometimes leaves users out in the cold.

John thinks that Mac BU is at a crossroads. Well, the truth is that Mac BU has always been at a crossroads. Mac BU will always be at a crossroads. We can ask the Lord above for mercy, and nobody will seem to know us. But we can still barrelhouse baby, on the riverside. (Apologies to Robert Johnson.)

 

Rick

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