Is Apple Aiming for the Enterprise Now?

Shiny glass like image of an appleOne of the things that comes up from time to time is the dominance of Windows and dearth of OS X in the Enterprise. It is no less true now than it has been in the past… OS X is not a major presence in business and in particular big business. In the past, Apple made overtures toward the business market with their Xserver and Xsan products, but those have been discontinued, leaving only the Mac Pro as the high horsepower OS X server of choice and the Mac Mini as the budget oriented OS X server platform. What does this mean for Apple in the Enterprise? Not much, or at least nothing different than what they have always been. Still, a few interesting tidbits came up during Tim Cook’s presentation that makes one wonder if Cupertino hasn’t kept business market share plans somewhere in their back pocket.

We Want More

In previous keynotes, there hasn’t typically been a global interest in discussing overall install base for the Mac. There has been discussion of laptop install base because that has historically been a strong point for Mac sales relative to the rest of the industry. But desktop sales have typically not been mentioned prominently. To be fair, Tim Cook didn’t really go into desktop sales specifically but he did discuss overall install base very prominently during the opening of the keynote. And more importantly, he stated “there are still 70% of people buying something else. We still have a lot to do.”

Now, no CEO is ever going to state “We have plenty of customers, we don’t need any more.” They would be kicked out of their posh office and deservedly so. They might even have to forego their golden parachute. But looking backwards, this sort of aggressive discussion of expanding the overall user base has been atypical of Apple. Surely they have always wanted to expand their hardware sales but it hasn’t been discussed so matter of factly before. That makes it interesting, but that alone isn’t what got me to thinking about business sales.

We Have More

During the discussion of iPad statistics, they pointed out 92% of Fortune 500 companies are looking at the iPad for internal use. I have to agree with Mr. Cook, that is remarkable. Of course, they’re naturally going to mention things which put the iPad in a positive light, and the fact that the iPad is the dominant tablet at the moment means there is plenty to talk about. Still, it is striking to me that there is such an emphasis on business uptake of the iPad.

Combine this with the other factoids, uptake in the medical industry, the recent adoption by some airline pilots to reduce the number of physical books they have to carry with them, the 95% overall satisfaction rate with iPad users, and you have a serious reason to think that the iPad, and Apple by extension, is going to end up firmly entrenched within the business sector.

But Wait, There’s Still More

Finally, there is another interesting piece of information that was shown; satisfaction rates for smartphone users. At the top of the heap was Apple with the iPhone. Noticeably missing from anywhere near the top of the heap? RIM’s BlackBerry. Personally, I have seen a large number of our clients shift from BlackBerry to iPhone or Android phones, with a bias toward the iPhone. RIM’s BlackBerry phones are, of course, known for being the phone for business professionals with presumably superior communication technologies. But with that low a satisfaction rate among RIM customers, at least some of them have to be switching. And what are they switching to? No doubt some of them are heading to iPhones. Toss in the fact that RIM entered the tablet war with disastrous consequences and you have a recipe for many dissastified business professionals turning toward Apple products.

So where does that leave things? Apple has been using the halo effect to push sales of each item of hardware through popular usage of other pieces of hardware. While the iPhone has been popular, the iPad is taking it to a whole new level, especially in the business sector. The fact that Apple is taking note of their overall market share, both in mobile and on the desktop, suggests they are aware of the overall position and that they can have a place in business. They haven’t given up on OS X Server as a product and might yet reintroduce server hardware but in the meantime can continue to work toward presence on the desktop at the small and enterprise business levels. I don’t purport to know what Apple is planning but it certainly seems like they have an eye on what could be.

3 replies on “Is Apple Aiming for the Enterprise Now?”

Apple has deffinitley tapped into the business market. Almost all our sales reps use iPads but it’s pretty much just to check email, look at documents or watch videos. Can they install and use our merchandise ordering software on a Mac or iPad? No. Can they install our office management software on an iPad or Mac to demo to doctors? No. Can they show the latest and greatest in diagnostic technology using a Mac? No.
There are a few pieces of technology out there that will use a OS X based software but it’s very few and even further far between. Usually when Macs are seen in offices they are used to bootcamp Windows so a proprietary software can be used. Can you use iPads with our office management software which is sold internationally? Yes and no. You can tether the iPad wirelessly to a pc that uses the software so it seems like you are but in all reality the pc is doing the work and the iPad is just a monitor, keyboard and mouse. Can you connect a particular digital xray to a Mac and use it in a Mac based software? Yes but that’s only because it sees the xray as a scanner. If any form of calibration needs to be done guess what? That’s right. Pull out a pc to create the calibration file using a particular program and then copy and paste the calibration file into the Mac.
I have asked manufacturers through the years why they don’t have a Mac version of their software. The biggest response is there’s just not enough market share in Mac to justify writing two versions of the same program. Another reason was that the license to write Mac compatible software is too expensive to justify selling only a couple hundred more copies, I don’t know if this is accurate just relaying what I’ve heard, please correct me if this is not a case.
One last hurdle Apple has to overcome is similar to my theory on flying cars. Can flying cars be possible? Yes. Can you trust a fraction of a percent of the drivers on the road today to have a flying car? Absolutely not! Bottom line is some companies can’t trust their interns or employees to take care of an expensive piece of technology and use it responsibly. The mentality may be why spend over $1,000 on a Macbook that may get used as a frisbee when they can get a $300 Toshiba that already has Windows on it and will run pretty much any program out there. Is it a “messed up” system? Yes. Some people deserve flying cars but it only takes one to drive a flying car through a school to ruin it for everyone.
I’ll admit I love having my iPhone handy in the field. I’m constantly emailing pictures to manufacturers, looking a pdf manuals and browsing the internet to find solutions to problems. Can other smart phones do this? Yes. It would be nice though to go to an iPad, or any tablet for that matter, for our field work instead of 7 year old laptops running XP. It will be an interesting next few years to see what develops but right now I can’t see Mac being big into enterprise. I can type more but the pizza is smelling good right now.

Lots of interesting commentary here, Ben. There’s actually no license required to develop software for a desktop or laptop Apple device unless you count the purchase of a development machine of your own, which may be substantial. The development tools are all freely downloadable. To develop for iOS devices it is also technically free. You have to pay $99/yr per developer if you want to sell them through the iTunes App Store but that is again a drop in the bucket compared to what you would expect to recuperate on a professional application of this type.

As for cross platform development, there are actually libraries (Qt comes to mind, WxWidget is another) which are code compatible across Windows, Mac and Linux (though perhaps not for iOS devices). There would no doubt be corner cases, pieces of functionality you would have to create separate modules for to accomplish on each platform, so maybe that would stop them. But ultimately, yes, there is additional effort needed to make an app available across both Windows and Mac and it may not always be advantageous to try it. I think it will increasingly become so over time with the market share of OS X on the rise and iOS already firmly entrenched in the mobile market. For now, perhaps not so much.

Regarding mistreating kit, in all of the companies I support, none would allow rampant mistreatment of company hardware. Most have hardware still running 5-7 years after purchase date (even when we beg them to upgrade because, really, it’s time). I don’t think Apple hardware would suffer any more than non-Apple hardware. In my opinion, the worst part would be the hardware support options for Apple, which are slim. Essentially you can bring your hardware to a Genius Bar to see if they can work on it in store, but generally you’re going to end up leaving it with them and possibly having to ship it out for hardware replacement. For a consumer this is bad but par for the course. For a business, it is unacceptable. I know Dell provides hardware replacement policies with on-site, 24 hour turnaround service options. They might be expensive but they are available. Apple has no such policy, which would have to change before they could go much further into the business market.

Agreed. I remember hearing once that Apple actually pitched the iPhone to Verizon first but Verizon declined because Apple didn’t want Verizon to be the main support for the device. When you consider “do it yourselfers” and IT guys most like to be able to build a machine from the ground up but I believe even the hard drives in iMacs at least have some sort of temp sensor that is specific to their hard drives so going a local computer store to buy parts are usually out of the question. Has anyone seen a power supply for an iMac in Best Buy? Neither have I.
Mac could get a lot more OS share if the OS was purchasable on it’s own, but that would hurt their expensive hardware side and would also tarnish some of their quality control rep since they can’t test every piece of hardware.
And not saying everyone would abuse hardware but there has been the occasional situation where a usb cable found it’s way into an ac outlet or a cdrom drive became a cup holder until it broke. I’ve been in offices where I had to peel the dust out of a pc because they sprayed disinfectant in the room all the time and it made the dust into a blanket.
As stated before iPads would be great but higher ups can’t trust the data plans in the hands of some employees. Some people haven’t figured out that staying on Facebook for 4 hours a day wasn’t in the job description. That’s not necessarily an iPad problem I suppose. More of an ethics statement I guess.
Presently I’m thinking that some proprietary software may start leaning to a web based interface that doesn’t require any particular OS at all and that would be cool with me.

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