Now, both of these cases are interesting for a number of reasons, but for me, the biggest reasons are perhaps what you aren't seeing. There's nothing about how pretty or how cool things are. These are two companies looking at business cases and ROI, the two things that Microsoft has used to push Windows into everything but your toilet paper dispenser, and saying "Microsoft loses." They're not completely abandoning Microsoft, but they're also looking at, or actively moving in AWC's case, into a heterogeneous posture.
Did Apple woo them? In AWC's case, no: "We began down this road independent of Apple," Frantz emphasizes in the article. "We bought some Apple gear and began to try to make it work on our own." Apple didn't actively do anything to start this, (although I bet they got involved once the decision was made), beyond their hardware and OS. They didn't PR blitz AWC, heck, AWC's not in a market segment that Apple has any active marketing in, at least to my knowledge.
So What Happened?
Nothing. At least not in the sense of Apple actively doing anything to market to the automotive industry IT segments. It was simply the solid course that Apple has taken under Steve Jobs, with the solid hardware and software that has come from it, that created this opportunity. With all the PR and programs Microsoft has to induce companies in AWC's market segment to live in a Windows world, Apple's action without form created and won that opportunity. WIthout a massive influx of roadmaps, consultants and certification courses, heck, probably without actively doing a lot of anything, Apple was able to win another SMB company over to its fold.
That, I think, is how Apple is going to become a force in the SMB market. Not by creating lock-in, and complex licensing, and PR blitzes. But by creating solid product that helps you spend less time with the monkeywork, and more time making money. By taking open standards from the old world of arcana, and moving them into the world of "it just works, and you don't have to lose functionality to lose lock-in." That is the significance of this. Not that Apple won mind- and marketshare from two mid-sized companies. Again, this is not a hint of some massive exodus. But rather that even though they consistently don't do the things that all wise IT pundits insist you must do to win in the business arena, Apple keeps picking up new customers. A few hundred here, a few hundred there, pretty soon, you're talking real marketshare.
And they're doing it with a miniscule percentage of the wooing dollars that Microsoft spends. That, more than anything, should be attracting Microsoft's notice. Not that it happened, but that it happened the way it did.