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.