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Business thrust continues Apple's OS jag

The company's Jaguar operating system for desktops has taken center stage, but Apple is also releasing Jaguar for servers, hoping to muscle into the enterprise market.

    Much of the buzz over Apple Computer's Mac OS X 10.2 has focused on desktop computers, but the company also has a new server operating system that's been refined for businesses.

    Both versions of Mac OS X 10.2, also known as Jaguar, go on sale Friday night.

    With Mac OS X 10.2 Server, Apple has turned its focus on businesses in a way it hasn't done for years, say analysts and company executives. With the Unix-based server operating system, Apple sees an opportunity to expand its presence with existing customers and to gain a foothold among businesses experimenting with Linux or using Unix.

    "We want to fit into the enterprise infrastructure," Tom Goguen, Apple's director of worldwide server product marketing, said Friday.

    Analysts see in Jaguar Server a bold attempt to do just that, to push into a market where Microsoft has successfully extended its reach with its Windows 2000 Server.

    "There is this community out there that is seeking alternatives to Microsoft," said Technology Business Research analyst Bob Sutherland. "It could be Mac OS X or Linux, or both."

    Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple also is hoping to woo cash-strapped technology managers looking to cut their client-computing costs, particularly in the face of Microsoft's Licensing 6 program, which, according to market researcher Gartner, raises upgrade fees anywhere from 33 percent to 107 percent.

    And many businesses are confronted by ongoing challenges as Microsoft rolls out its .Net Web services strategy and potentially increases the number of client-access licenses companies must pay for. Under the Microsoft model, companies pay for the desktop and server operating systems and an additional fee for each desktop connecting to the server.

    Apple hopes to attract more customers by, among other things, making good technology available at more affordable prices. Mac OS X 10.2 Server is available in a 10-user version for $500 and an unlimited-user version for $1,000. Windows 2000 Server with 25 clients costs an average $1,600 or more and an additional $1,900 or more for unlimited access when used as a Web server. No additional fees are required for using Jaguar as a Web server.

    "They've taken their approach to the pricing model. We've taken another," Apple's Goguen said.

    Apple also has packed in lots of new features that small and medium-size businesses may find attractive, many designed to ease management of computers or users. Mac OS X now supports LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) 3 for managing network policies, users and computer resources. Workgroup Manager is technology that managers use to administer and assign resources to users, groups or computers.

    "With a few tweaks, it works with Active Directory," Goguen said, referring to Windows 2000 Server's software tool for managing users and computers attached to a network.

    Jaguar Server also includes Samba, software that allows for file-sharing with Windows computers. And the Mac software supports the Network File System (NFS) used by Unix and Linux systems. Apple sees this as crucial to expanding Mac OS X 10.2 Server's penetration in existing markets and to gaining ground among companies testing Linux.

    "Companies are finding Mac OS X delivers on many of the features of Linux, such as low cost, but with more robust features," Goguen said.

    Sutherland shared Goguen's optimism, but with a touch of caution. "It will be interesting to see if they get traction from the Linux crowd," he said. "I do think the Apple faithful will buy into the Apple server."

    Goguen acknowledged that Apple sees its core market as the most important one. "That's the market we see giving us a lot of business for the foreseeable future," he said. But part of that business, he said, could come from "replacing other things" such as Unix Servers running alongside Mac servers, "with Mac OS X 10.2."

    Apple also is betting big on Mac OS X 10.2 Server in the Web services arena and the software's cost savings advantage over competing Microsoft products. Jaguar Server comes with the newest version of Apache Server, which, Goguen claimed, "You could turn on with one button with a secure configuration. That's very attractive to a small business."

    Apple is hoping to make Jaguar appealing to companies developing or serving digital media, too. The server software comes with QuickTime Broadcaster and QuickTime Streaming Server. Apple's QuickTime 6 supports MPEG-4, the open-standard successor to MPEG-2, for serving up or viewing digital video and audio. On Sept. 4, Microsoft plans to release the beta, or testing, version of competing Windows Media 9 Series.