The Future of Apple & Enterprise IT: Q&A With JAMF Software Founder

Zach Halmstad was an Apple loyalist before it was cool.

He founded JAMF Software in 2002 after developing enterprise tools for Mac computers as part of an IT job at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he was studying music.

Today, JAMF—which is headquartered in Minneapolis but has significant operations in Eau Claire—has more than $52 million in annual revenue, more than 5,500 customers, nearly 500 employees, and just opened its eighth office, in Poland. The company helps businesses set up and manage Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) computers and mobile devices that employees use for work.

Halmstad co-led the company until earlier this year, when Dean Hager was named CEO. Halmstad is now a JAMF partner focused on product strategy.

Halmstad was among the headline speakers at last week’s Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium. Afterwards, he sat down with Xconomy to chat about JAMF, business users’ demand for Macs, and where Apple might go from here. The following interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Xconomy: When you started JAMF 13 years ago, Apple had something of a cult following, and its logo was nowhere near as ubiquitous as it is today. Did you consider yourself an “Apple person” back then?

Zach Halmstad: I did. I started working with computers in high school. I was working with music software, and the majority of that was on the Mac at the time. When I got the [IT] job in college, I had a fair amount of knowledge about the platform already.

X: During JAMF’s 13-year lifetime, Apple has become the biggest company in the world, as measured by market cap. Do you think JAMF, which focuses entirely on Apple products, was the beneficiary of great timing?

ZH: In a lot of ways, yeah. When JAMF was founded in 2002, from a revenue standpoint, it was Apple’s worst year in the last 26 years. We were definitely not jumping on the bandwagon of the biggest company in the world. We were jumping on the bandwagon of something that we believed in and wanted to see succeed. By the time Apple started to become more popular, maybe in the 2007 time frame, we had five years of technology built. We were lucky from that standpoint that we really did have a focus way before anyone else really viewed them as a sexy company to build for.

X: Were Macs viewed as computers for geeks and creative types, rather than businesspeople, during that time?

ZH: Everyone told us, “If you want to be a real company, you have to support Windows, too.” We loved what Apple was doing and really believed in their mentality of putting humans first in the technology equation. Steve Jobs used the phrase, “humanizing technology,” and that’s always rung really true to us as we try to do the things that are most intuitive to people.

In reality, technology is something that’s supposed to make their jobs easier. If … Next Page »

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Jeff Buchanan is the editor of Xconomy Wisconsin. Email: jbuchanan@xconomy.com Follow @_jeffbuchanan

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