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I mentioned in my Enterprise Desktops: Linux, OS.X, and Win7 post that I never expected to see OS.X pass Linux in the race to MS Exchange compatibility.

 

OS.X 10.6, codenamed "Snow Leopard" got there first.

 

As a Linux maven, this has been a hard loss to accept, but as I also have a Mac, it has been an easy loss to accept... Yes: I am feeling very split-brain about it all.

 

Just to be sure, I loaded up Ubuntu 9.10 Alpha 4, and updated to the very bleeding edge, to see if Gnome 2.28 / Evo 2.28 and its built in MAPI support was going to catch up, or even be close. But it has not. It is not even close yet. When I try to enter the server name or IP address in the setup dialog, it just crashes, and it does not even ask if I want to report the problem. It's Alpha, so I can not really criticize it. I was just hoping. I was just looking for a glimmer of MS Exchange 2007 interoperability light.

 

To be even more sure I loaded up SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 11 (SLED 11) and applied all the maintenance. I can enter the MS Exchange server by name rather than address, but the GAL (Global Address List) does not work, and calendaring hangs. I am told some have working calendars, so this does appear to be variable, but it does not work on my calendar, as built up over the years, so I assume that it will not work for others as well.

 

I also built a SLED 11 appliance with SUSE Studio (very cool) and had the same results.

 

Last try: I downloaded OpenSUSE 11.2 Milestone 6 and installed it, but that does not have MAPI in it at all yet.

 

OpenSUSE 11.2 and the GA of Ubuntu 9.10 are still months away, and I have no idea if full MAPI is going to make it even then. The forums I watch about the subject have been very quiet about MAPI status. The Wiki has:

 

 

But the last updates there are severely out of date. I scoured the forums, and Googled with fervent hope, but at the end of the day, OS.X was there with fully functional MS Exchange support, and Linux is not yet.

 

Nope. This round goes to OS.X. That is not to say that the support for Exchange in OS.X is perfect yet. I found a bug with scheduling meetings this morning. I have not seen any public discussion of this problem yet either, but then 10.6 is brand new, so there may not have been time. It appears to be an issue with the Global Address List (GAL) looking up the name.

 

I am also having another problem, but this appears to be a MS bug. The 'affinity server' is, after 3 days of steady use, suddenly rejecting my password. It is my password though, and I can not seem to convince the affinity server that it is OK. Whatever this little issue is, it locks out my Mac from email, but Linux (using IMAP) and Win7 (using whatever RPC's and MAPI bits Outlook 2007 uses) are both still able to access the Inbox.

 

There is an easy "work around" though: Look them up in the address book, and then drag and drop them on the appointment. In retrospect this is probably what Apple thought people would do anyway, rather than trying to do direct adds in the meeting itself. Its kind of funny: the meeting invite is sent the second that the person is dropped onto the meeting, rather than when the edit of the meeting is finished. But it works, and very well.

 

All of this does not even count the fact that MS will release Outlook for the Mac too, so that there will be two ways to access the Exchange server on a Mac. Outlook does not arrive till the end of 2010 though, so the built in MS Exchange 2007 support in OS.X will have plenty of time to mature and have a great deal of uptake.

 

The reason that this all works is probably that Apple did not take the MAPI/RPC route with 10.6. They are using Web based API's. I traced out a conversation with MS Exchange just to verify this was true. In this regard it seems like that the MS Exchange support in 10.6 is a bit like the Exchange Connector support used to be in Evolution... except that was WebDAV based, and with MS Exchange 2007 WebDAV is dropped in favor of these new API's.

 

This is also why 10.6 only supports MS Exchange 2007 and not 2003 and earlier. When MAPI / RPC support is finally fully working in Linux / Evolution it will have that over 10.6: MAPI / RPC means that Evolution will be able to talk to any version of MS Exchange all the way back to 5.5 more than likely. But then Outlook will arrive in the Macstack at the end of 2010, and probably negate that advantage, unless MS releases a Web API only version of Outlook. They might... never know.

 

The Mac I am using for all this is a 3.5 year old unit, and 10.6 has also had the side effect of making the unit feel like it has had a new processor installed. The system has a 2.1 Ghz Core processor (not Core 2) and 2Gb of RAM, and while it has never felt slow, it now "feels" every bit as fast as my Macbook with 4GB or RAM and 2.4 Ghz Core 2 processors. I used the word "Feels" there very intentionally, since I have not done actual objective measurements. Still, Safari seems to snap open, and Filezilla seems to transfer things with great speed, etc. The mail.app is quick, and the interface clean. The emails are sent quickly.

 

Does all of this mean the Mac is now "Enterprise ready"?

 

I have read this question over and over in the trades, along with endless (and endlessly vapid, IMHO) 10.6 / Win7 "Shootouts" and "Death Matches" and other similar cruft.

 

The answer is of course "Yes". Unless it is "No" in your shop.

 

MS Exchange is at something like 50% market share in the email server space, so having this support was critical *if* you are in a place that uses MS Exchange. If you were in a place that uses some other email server, or maybe have it SaaS'ed out to Google Apps or something, then you already were ready to use a Mac in the Enterprise. Whether or not you do is probably more about the size of your organization, the enlightenment of your IT department, and so forth. I was talking to one person recently whose IT department had a very cool hardware standard for their laptops: They gave folks a budget and they bought whatever they wanted to schelp around. If they bought a Windows based unit, it had to be locked down with a corporate software stack, but OS.X or Linux were not nearly as restricted.

 

Right after I was told about this, I got curious what I could buy for their stated budget. I have done this a couple times in the past, but I wanted to be sure the numbers had not changed much. According to a couple of vendors online configurators, that I could get a Mac for about the same price when configured the same way. And I got the Macbook unibody to boot. To be sure, I could not buy a 500 dollar Mac laptop or anything: I was comparing 13.3 inch screened, 1033 Mhz buss'ed, fast, large disked, corporate units only. Combine this with what, at least for me, has been a high level of reliability / durability / schelp-ability, and I can see why some would want to bring their Macbooks into their office settings, rather than their normal habitats like graphics studios and print shops and Hollywood offices and other parts of the creative world.

 

In the very strict confines of an MS-infrastructure-only shop, Mac's were historically harder to use: Same as Linux. Also like Linux, Macs have the same coping mechanisms now. Examples:

 

  • Office Apps:
    • OpenOffice  (Have had NeoOffice for years): I just loaded up 3.1.1, and it has had no problems with an MS formatted documents
    • iWork:
      • Pages opens MS formatted stuff as well, and usually with high fidelity.
      • Ditto Keynote for PowerPoint.
      • Numbers: I have had slightly less luck with Numbers. The problem is, as always, macros, although it also does not like outlined and sorted spreadsheets. Numbers is the new kid on the iWork block, and it is a great spreadsheet on its own: it is just not fully MS compatible. Yet.
  • Browsers:
    • Firefox
    • Opera
    • Chrome
    • Seamonkey
      • I like the Composer HTML editor. NVU stopped at 1.0 and its child Kompozer often goes stale (although I see some movement over in Komposer, and I am using both Composer and Komposer on this post on 10.6, to see what is what. Komposer is buggy and feature-full, and Composer is solid and feature-few. Sigh.)
    • And of course, Safari 4.

 

... and so forth: OS.X has benefited greatly from the Open Source world, to be sure.

 

And Of Course, with Web 2.0+ All This Matters Less Anyway

 

As the screams around the Internet reverberate every time Gmail has a multi-minute outage, it is clear that a huge part of the world now uses online infrastructure rather than dedicated, installed in the computer or personal datacenter based infrastructure. Out there in Cloudland, you need a computer to access the cloud, and it matters not if it is a Mac, Linux (or some varient / imbedded version of it), BSD, Solaris, AIX, HP-UX, or something else. All that matters is if you have a good standards compliant browser available for your platform. That was the idea behind the Netbook, and my Dell Mini-9 came with a 2GB SSD hard drive: Enough to run Ubuntu and a browser, and it works extremely well.

 

The more standard (as in Open Standard) the less the client platform matters. The trends are that the people using one platform will be able to communicate with those of all the other platforms, and never know if they are talking to someone like them or not like them, computer-choice-wise.

 

That is good for Linux.

 

Or, looked at another way: I can tweet from anywhere. And anything. Change "tweet" to be whatever you need it to be.