How Apple is invading the enterprise

There was a time when you wouldn't mention the words "Apple" and "enterprise" in the same breath. Apple sold to consumers and didn't much care about catering to the enterprise. But the iPhone and iPad changed all that.

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Active Interest Media, which publishes magazines like American Cowboy, Black Belt and Vegetarian Times, always had a somewhat liberal "bring your own device" policy for employees.

But, "when the iPhone grew in popularity, it became apparent to us that we should be proactive in managing these devices as data was going beyond the bounds of the office," says IT Director Nelson Saenz.

AIM selected a mobility management tool from Good Technology to handle messaging, email, contacts and calendar, for both Apple iOS and Android platforms. Good for Enterprise also provides an app that lets employees use Microsoft SharePoint on their smartphones.

"Now we have a centralized management console, so we don't have to turn away users if they want to use their iPhones, but at the same time IT has the peace of mind of being able to manage these devices and set policies and have granular structure from a security standpoint," he says.

Saenz adds that while use of the iPhone at AIM grew organically, the iPad tablet was eagerly embraced after its release last April, with the company purchasing them for executives.

AIM's experience isn't unique. Speaking at Apple's quarterly earnings conference call in January, acting CEO Tim Cook said, "The iPad started shipping in April, and we are already up to 80% of the largest companies deploying or piloting the product. This is unheard of, at least in my dealings with the enterprise over the years. Generally enterprises are much slower, much more cautious and use things that have been in the market for a long time."

Data from Good Technology bears out this trend. In a study released in January, Good reported that among its thousands of corporate and government customers, including more than 40 of the Fortune 100, nearly two-thirds of net new activations in the fourth quarter were for mobile devices running on Apple's iOS. The financial and healthcare industries in particular are rapidly adopting Apple's tablet computer, according to the survey.

Chris Hazelton, mobile and wireless research director for The 451 Group in Boston, says three things are driving iPad's adoption in the enterprise: the increasing number of APIs from mobile device management vendors, the fact that Apple included application level encryption in iOS 4, and Apple's Developer Enterprise Program, which allows companies to build their own "proprietary, non-public applications that can be pushed out to their employees and managed by MDM vendors."

All of which leaves Apple in a position to do something it hasn't been able or willing to do in 30 years - sell to corporations. Good Technology predicts that "in 2011 the iPad, along with other tablets, will be increasingly purchased and deployed by enterprises to meet specific business needs.''

Attempting to seize this opportunity, Apple has begun poaching mobile enterprise sales executives from Research in Motion (RIM). The Wall Street Journal reported last November that since mid-2009, five RIM executives defected to Cupertino, including Geoff Perfect, head of strategic sales, and Joe Bartlett, senior global sales manager.

Apple also announced on March 3 a new programme aimed at supporting small businesses that purchase Macs. The service includes support for iPhones, iPads and iPods.

Bad romance

This newfound lovefest between Apple and the enterprise has been the result of a softening of positions on both sides.

There was a time not long ago when you wouldn't mention the words "Apple" and "enterprise" in the same breath. Other than a handful of Macs for the graphics department, Apple products pretty much were non-existent in most enterprises.

Not that Apple seemed to care. Apple long ago had established its brand identity as a creator of personal electronics, and it almost was if Apple, with its devoted following of gushing fanboy consumers, thought it was too cool for the staid and sterile enterprise.

Sure, once in a great while the Cupertino gang would lob a product into the corporate market, the Apple III business computer in 1980, the Xserve rack server in 2002, but these forays were infrequent and generally unsuccessful.

"The company's efforts and focus on the enterprise have been extremely erratic," says Charles King, president of IT industry analysis firm Pund-IT.

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