The contrast couldn't be any starker: On Wednesday, Oracle will tell the world why it means business, and Apple will retreat deeper into the toy box.
Wednesday? That's the day that Apple has invited a select few to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco to "come see our latest creation." And what might that creation be? Well we don't know for sure yet, but it's a pretty good bet it's a long-rumored tablet. Perhaps it will run OS X, perhaps it will run the iPhoneOS, and perhaps there will be a new iPhoneOS 4.0 announced at the same time, too. Who knows? It's all part of the magic and mystique of Apple, a company that aims to surprise and delight its fans with new toys on a regular basis.
There are a great many unknowns to all this, but one thing is clear: This product launch whatever it is symbolizes Apple's abandonment of the enterprise market place. Like a bored teenager with a short attention span, it's decided it can't be bothered with business software or hardware any more. That stuff is dull, and Apple was never really much good at it anyway. Selling toys and games is soooo much sexier.
It's a shame, in a way, because the company has been desperately touting its business credentials of late, and with the iPhone at least, if not with its pitiful server software, it so nearly succeeded. The iPhone has been improved dramatically since its launch from a device woefully inadequate for enterprise use to one that is almost ready for mass business adoption. Perhaps version 4 of the iPhoneOS, if it is launched, will push it even closer.
But that's the problem with Apple: You never know what's around the corner. New software? New hardware? New strategy? It's all a big game to Jobs & Co., keeping the fans wondering until a dramatic launch event when everything is revealed. That's no way to treat business customers, and it's one of the key reasons enterprises have consistently turned up their noses at OS X and chosen Windows, Linux or just about any other operating system with which to run their business.
That's also why the contrast with Oracle is so stark. On Wednesday, while the kid in all of us will be wondering what amazing new toy Apple is unveiling to keep us amused throughout the winter months, Oracle's CEO Larry Ellison will be presenting the business-minded with his vision for the future. Whatever else Ellison reveals, it will not be available via the AppStore, and it will not come in a choice of colors.
No, Oracle is an enterprise player, and it will be giving potential and existing customers an update on its strategy following the acquisition of Sun, revealing product roadmaps, and generally keeping everyone informed. That's about as exciting as Oracle gets, and it's a good bet that it won't be surprising or delighting anyone. But it will be preparing them to make prudent, sensible business decisions.
Oracle will be helping enterprises plan ahead by revealing a product roadmap, and Apple will be surprising the world with its latest creation. It's why Oracle's products belong in the enterprise, and why Apple's belong in the toy box.
Paul Rubens is a journalist based in Marlow on Thames, England. He has been programming, tinkering and generally sitting in front of computer screens since his first encounter with a DEC PDP-11 in 1979.