Apple developers, IT departments frustrated with iPad

Software developers lash out at Apple procedures

What are your plans next Saturday?

If you're an avid Apple fan, chances are you'll be waiting in a long line for hours to fork out $US500 to get your hands on a newly minted iPad. Then you'll race home (or to your nearest wi-fi hot spot) and start downloading cool iPad apps.

Just one problem: Killer iPad apps aren't available yet, because Apple didn't release iPads to most major developers ahead of time so that they could test their apps on the new device.

Only a handful of companies like News Corp. have been given an iPad for developing native apps. Amazon isn't one of the handful. So you won't be able to read Amazon Kindle e-books optimized for the iPad's beautiful 10-inch touchscreen-at least not on April 3rd.

Apple's handling of the iPad causes confusion among developers, consumers and even IT departments. Like iPad developers, IT staffs don't get a heads up on coming Apple products. When a much-hyped product finally hits the streets, say Apple engineers, enterprises must race to make sure it works in their computing environments.

Meanwhile, faithful consumers waiting for an upcoming Apple product become more and more anxious. Their anxiety hits a crescendo the day of the product's release. They want to bring their shiny new Apple product to work, show it off to friends, and play with third party apps immediately.

One Mac engineer, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of an Apple backlash, told CIO.com that her company spent nearly a year certifying Leopard after its much-hyped release. "It didn't work with our existing OS X image, didn't work with our infrastructure, couldn't guarantee it would work with Entourage or Proxy," she recalls. "We had to wait five months for Leopard to be revved."

In comparison, Dell releases a new laptop to enterprises a month or so before its formal release on the market. This lets IT staff test the new machine and make sure it's stable in their computing environments. For new OS versions, IT must see if it works with third-party apps and the virtual private network.

Apple's consumer approach also means Apple delivers new products frequently, for instance, every four to eight months, Mac engineers say. Apple's use of secrecy to create excitement works on all levels of consumers, including top executives. These executives want the latest Apple products, yet enterprises are geared for longer refresh cycles. The Mac engineer says, "This complicates our relationship with business units that want the new Mac right now."

Ben Hanes, senior systems administrator at Children's Hospital of Oakland Research Institute, says Apple's reluctance to give him a heads up on new products is the biggest problem he faces when managing Macs in the enterprise. "We would really love to see Apple take a stand, but that's not happening," he says.

Hanes, however, says Apple's enterprise support of existing Apple products has improved over the years. Hanes' three-person team supports some 400 people from 30 different labs using 500 machines that are equally split between Macs and PCs.

Tom Kaneshige is a senior writer for CIO.com in Silicon Valley. Send him an email at tkaneshige@cio.com. Or follow him on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline.

Read more about consumer in CIO's Consumer Drilldown.

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