Apple devices may have found their way onto the corporate network through the back door, but their slow and steady penetration over the years has positioned the popular iPhone maker as a serious contender in today’s enterprise.
Corporate users have been navigating workarounds to load work email and other applications onto their iOS devices for years — even when they weren’t officially sanctioned or supported.
While consumer sales have dipped for Apple’s products, businesses are showing much enthusiasm, contributing US$25 billion to Apple’s net sales of nearly US$234 billion in 2015.
While that’s a dip in the bucket of the company’s overall revenues, enterprise sales in 2015 were up by 40 per cent over 2014, significantly more than Apple’s overall sales growth of 28 per cent.
Corporations and governments, according to market research firm Forrester, buy nearly half of all iPads. “Apple is stronger in the enterprise market with its devices than it is with consumers,” Forrester analyst Frank Gillet told The New York Times.
These days Apple’s iPhones and iPads have become favoured mobile computing devices for many corporations, since they give employees the freedom to work from anywhere and allow companies to dump their incredibly hulking desktops.
British Airways, for example, has built more than 40 custom iPad apps for its workforce, an initiative that eliminated reams of paper used for flight plans, passenger manifests and maintenance records, says the Financial Post.
Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook has made enterprise a key focus for Apple, making several announcements with companies such as Cisco, IBM and SAP in recent years.
“We’re collaborating much better with key partners because it’s important, if you’re making a decision to use our products or anybody’s products in the enterprise, that they work well together,” Cook recently told the Washington Post.
In September, Apple announced a “unique collaboration” with Cisco in which the companies would work together to optimize Cisco’s network services for Apple devices and apps.
“What makes this new partnership unique is that our engineering teams are innovating together to build joint solutions that our sales teams and partners will take jointly to our customers,” Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins wrote in a blog post at the time.
With their slick hardware, advanced security features and intuitive interfaces, Apple’s products could make sense for the enterprise, especially those with large numbers of mobile employees.
“Apple made strategic moves for business by beefing up security and administrative controls for its software and devices, but those changes weren’t necessarily geared at enterprise,” says CIO.com.
Not all CIOs have a hankering for iOS and all things Apple, though. Some say the company hasn’t done enough to demonstrate a commitment to the enterprise, and that any traction it’s getting is through the back door. Employees are bringing their iOS devices to work and IT has to figure out how to support them.
Apple devices sit in the hands, pockets and on the desks of business professionals “because the iPhone and iPad came through the back door and supplanted BlackBerry,” Mark Uemura, vice-president at Rakuten Marketing, told CIO.com.
Even so, Apple recognizes its devices are being used at home and work, Gillet told the Financial Post, and the company is focusing on “making products better for individual users” rather than tweaking features for a specific market.