Love at first bite
In 2007, Apple released the iPhone, which was an instant hit with its target market: consumers. Then something perhaps even Apple hadn't expected happened. Many of these iPhone owners liked their device so much they insisted on using them at work instead of their corporate-issued BlackBerrys.
"The iPhone enabled Apple to enter a door into the enterprise," says The 451 Group's Hazelton. "But that door has been open by employees already using the device."
Which Apple didn't quite get or appreciate at the time. The iPhone was built for consumers who wanted to text, surf the web, download games, And sometimes make a call. Nobody at Apple was worried about things like enterprise data leakage and business applications.
InformationWeek in July 2007 wrote that the "iPhone remains a closed system that doesn't allow install-it-yourself applications," calling the Apple device's design "a red flag to businesses that use a variety of apps and consequently need more flexibility than Apple's giving."
"When the iPhone initially came out, it did not have customised apps available, and there was no SDK (software developers' kit)," says Aberdeen Group senior research analyst Andrew Borg.
But Apple soon realised it had a lucrative new market to explore and quickly remedied the situation, in its own uniquely Apple way.
Romancing the phone
"Apple comes out with iPhone 3 (in July 2008), and at the same time it announced an SDK and a whole ecosystem, the App store," Borg says. "It changed the game again overnight. A small percentage of apps were for the enterprise, but when you're talking about 10 billion apps (downloaded from the App Store), that percentage represents a significant number."
Then, less than a year ago, Apple unveiled the iPad. This time, consumer and corporate America swooned, and what was now being referred to as the "consumerisation of the enterprise" reached another level. By the end of 2010, Apple had sold more than 15 million iPads, many directly to corporations.
Still, for enterprise managers leery of having "unauthorised" devices connected to their network, accessing email, other documents and databases, Apple's mobile invasion of the enterprise has created new challenges.
Traditionally enterprise managers could rely on software and support directly from the vendors supplying the devices. For example, RIM offers a BlackBerry Enterprise Server for IT managers to securely allow enterprise executives access to corporate email and other documents using their RIM smartphones.
But that's not the way Apple operates. Apple didn't want to develop its own management and security tools, and between the SDK and the emergence of mobile device management vendors such as Good Technology, it doesn't have to.
In December 2009, Good began offering enterprise mobility management tools for devices running on Apple's iOS mobile operating system (as well as devices running on Google's Android).
Good for Enterprise enables IT administrators to manage all mobile devices from a web-based portal, allowing them to control which applications users can access from their personal iPhones, as well as which applications must be running before the user can get a secure connection. And if a device is lost or stolen, the platform allows IT managers to remotely wipe it clean of corporate data.
"Our security and management framework basically allows the enterprise to consistently control the Good client so they can enforce policies and guarantee that the data within that client is not leaving that environment and being copied over into other applications," said John Herrema, senior vice president of corporate strategy for Good.
Good accomplishes all of this without interfering with the personal features of a worker's iPhone, Herrema said, by deploying a "container" on the device "in which all the business data and access is controlled and managed within that container. And what that allows for the rest of the device, the user can just do whatever they want to do in deploying their personal applications and so on."
It takes two to tango and enterprise IT still needed to loosen up and allow these new consumer devices onto the network. For the most part, that's starting to happen.
Bad break up
But, of course, not all companies are on board with this new laissez-faire attitude. For example, in a recent interview with Network World, Wells Fargo said it bans all personal devices.
"They can't connect them to our networks," says Wayne Mekjian, executive vice president and CIO of information services at Wells Fargo. "We won't let them in." The "just say no" policy applies to Apple iPads, Android tablets and smartphones owned by employees.
Like any long running romance, there are lots of ups and downs when it comes to Apple and enterprise IT. But as Apple's Cook puts it: "I think the most forward-looking CIOs are coming to the realisation that the productivity of the person, the creativity of the employee, is materially more important than everyone using the same thing.''
And even AIM's Saenz agrees that letting users bring in whatever devices they want isn't for everybody. "There are going to be environments where security and the extreme locking down of devices will always take precedence over anything else," he says.