When Apple meets the enterprise


Apple’s days as a corporate outsider selling premium kit to the cognoscenti are long behind it. Nowadays the company is targeting its iPhones and iPads at enterprises, with the help of one-time arch-enemy IBM.

Apple isn’t the first company that springs to mind when the word ‘enterprise’ comes up. Of course, the company itself is a massive enterprise, regularly posting record quarterly sales figures and boasting an unprecedented market capitalisation of $758 billion at the time of writing. But as a quintessential 1970s Silicon Valley ‘garage startup’, Apple — particularly under co-founder and arch ‘hippie capitalist’ Steve Jobs — always cultivated a renegade/outsider image, seemingly more comfortable selling its designer products to the cognoscenti rather than slugging it out in the mass-market.
Nowhere was this self-image so evident as in the famous Macintosh-introducing 1984 commercial, in which a sportingly-clad female rebel gatecrashes an assembly where an on-screen Big Brother-like figure is addressing serried ranks of grey workers. In his 1983 keynote introducing the ad, Steve Jobs articulated the contrast between outsider Apple and corporate behemoth IBM, saying:

“IBM wants it all and is aiming its guns on its last obstacle to industry control: Apple. Will ‘Big Blue’ dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right about 1984?”

So it’s ironic that, three decades later, Apple’s market cap is nearly 4.5 times that of IBM, and that the two companies last year formed a partnership to develop and deliver business apps for the iOS platform (more on this later). Who’s the Big Brother now?

In its latest quarterly financial results (for fiscal Q2 2015, ending 28 March) Apple reported revenue of $58 billion and net profit of $13.6 billion. The company sold 61.2 million iPhones (down from an all-time record 74.5 million in Q1 2015), 12.6 million iPads and 4.6 million Macs. Here are the unit sales and revenue figures for the last 14 quarters, showing a distinctly iPhone-dominated picture, particularly after the iPhone 6/6 Plus-boosted 2014/15 holiday season:apple-sales-sf.jpgapple-sales-sf.jpg

If the iPhone is the product sales story of recent quarters, then China is the story as far as geography is concerned, the region’s contribution to the Cupertino coffers jumping from 18 percent of revenue in 2014 to 29 percent in Q2 2015:

In a recent (10 February 2015) on-stage conference interview with Gary Cohn, president and COO at Goldman Sachs, Apple CEO Tim Cook had this to say about China:

“We’ve invested in a ton of people there. We’ve invested in stores there, in flagship stores. We’re rolling out more stores. We’ve partnered with top Chinese companies, like China Mobile and China Unicom and China Telecom, and great services companies like Baidu on search and Tencent and Yoku. We’re now at 19 in Greater China. We’re going to be at 40 by mid next year…We’ve brought on 40,000 point of sales at our indirect channel partners. And so, we’ve done things with people that really understood China and had desire of services there. Maybe more than anything, we’ve put our personal energy into it and tried to deeply understand the market and respect it. And it — over time, it began to work. Five years ago, we were at less than $1 billion of revenue. In the last 12 months, we were at $38 billion.”

China, and in due course territories with similar potential such as India, may be the focus of Apple’s geographical ambitions, but as consumer markets saturate in mature territories, the enterprise also looms increasingly large in the company’s plans.

VMware: The Apple Enterprise Invasion
In June last year, VMware published the results of a survey of 376 IT professionals, entitled The Apple Enterprise Invasion. The study found that two-thirds (66%) of the businesses surveyed were using Macs in the workplace (how many was not revealed), with a 70/30 percent split between official and unofficial (BYOD) support. The main reason given for the presence of Macs in these companies was ‘user preference’:vmware-mac-reasons.jpg

Only a quarter (25%) of the IT professionals surveyed by VMware considered Macs easier to support than Windows systems, with 36 percent regarding the support effort as about equal. That leaves 39 percent of the opinion that Macs are harder to support than PCs:

vmware-support-sf.jpgWhen it comes to business-critical applications, only 8 percent of VMware’s IT professionals reported that all of their enterprise applications were ready to run on Macs, although 24 percent felt that most were Mac-friendly. That leaves 47 percent with some Mac-compliant enterprise apps and 17 percent with none:

Data source: VMware

Although the increasing use of browser-interfaced SaaS applications and other cloud-based services is likely to level this playing field in the future, the top three Mac capabilities valued by IT professionals in VMware’s 2014 survey were basically about application compatibility: the ability to run Microsoft Office (59 percent); the ability to enable secure access to enterprise applications (59 percent); and the ability to run Windows (41 percent) — the latter presumably to access legacy business-critical apps that don’t run natively. (On that note, VMware naturally asked its survey respondents about the value of virtual desktops such as Fusion Professional, receiving the following replies: 45 percent deemed them ‘very valuable’, 46 percent ‘somewhat valuable’ and 9 percent ‘not valuable’.)

Although many employees apparently prefer to use Macs, there clearly remain some challenges for IT professionals charged with managing them in Windows-dominated enterprises. However, the picture is significantly different when we look at mobile devices.

Good Technology: Mobility Index Report
Leading enterprise mobility management provider Good Technology publishes a quarterly Mobility Index Report (MIR), the latest being for Q1 2015.

Metrics cited in the reports are generated from Good’s internal data, aggregated from the company’s worldwide customer base. The headline metric is the number of new device activations among customers with at least five mobile devices. For the last couple of years, Apple iOS smartphones and tablets have consistently outperformed Android devices, with Windows making a negligible impression (BES-managed BlackBerry devices are not counted, but would undoubtedly feature among the also-rans if they were):