Apple's growing place in the enterprise

October, EuroFinance, Geneva: Forget the old myth that Apple isn't big in the corporate and enterprise sectors. It isn't true. In the new global dynamic, in which Adobe and Microsoft ponder a merger which would never have made it past competition regulators even five years ago, Apple is the new force. How do I know? This isn't just about market valuation on AAPL stock; this is about the people who run those markets.

I was in Geneva last week at a key international event, a hugely corporate gathering of treasurers, bankers, chief financial officers. These people are conservative and they roll with big, big, big money. Ths isn't the place you'd expect to see iPads as competition prizes or iPhones everywhere -- and sometimes a BlackBerry in one hand, an iPhone in another. That was the pattern at the event.

You could argue this is purely cosmetic. It is not. The evolution of the mobile smartphone apps ecosystem has these most staid of business professionals excited.

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They understand this desperately-connected mobility may be of use as they jet between destinations on their interminable quest to ensure prudent and powerful cash control, effective risk management and corporate governance of the essential root of corporate life, the treasury.

Evidence is everywhere here.

Every other bank seems to compelled to produce non-consumer iPhone apps for their corporate clients. This trend's reflected in new training provision now being made for enterprise users turning to iOS.

Bloomberg is producing an iPad app for subscribers to its world-class financial information service. This will be an extension of existing multiple-platform support, but already it looks as if the kind of intuitive access to deep financial market information this app will provide gives financial folk yet another reason to spring a few hundred dollars on the Apple device.

BNP Paribas this week announced that its NeoLink client portal is now available on iPad.

On launch, Apple CEO Steve Jobs attracted a lot of attention when he called the iPad 'magical'....turns out he may have been right.

Think about it. Just over six months since iPad reached the shops it has already built for itself the visibility it takes to attract interest from those at the heart of corporate finance. It has motivated banks, financial houses and world-class firms such as Bloomberg to produce apps for the platform.

Why?

Portability and power is part of it. Screen real estate is another. The always on connectedness of the device lends an extra string to the bow, but the main drive here is the app store.

This is causing many in the corporate sector to begin considering what it is they want their systems to do, and to question how they want to make their information available to staff within their various departments.

They are also pondering futures in which RFID-based devices become payment systems -- the evolution of the iwallet has much more significance than how you plan to purchase groceries.

It also opens up a world of immediate financial data and control, both of internal credit and expenses systems and also in terms of client/customer relationship management. There's some already grappling with how they will manage the huge quantities of data such reporting systems will be able to generate.

At root of all this is the relative affordability of development of apps -- and not just for Apple, either, it extends beyond this to the wider world, Android, and other smartphone platforms in future....

The relative affordability of app development make it possible for larger and small firms to develop software that answers their specific needs at a cost they can sustain. This is a massively multiplayer world of niche app developments, the phrase 'there's an app for that' is moving away from being trite and pervasive to becoming true.

This is an opportunity that's being embraced by corporations -- who, might I point out, were not talking about Android at last week's event -- and this represents a seismic shift in terms of how Apple is regarded by those at the very top of the enterprise technology tree.

The impact of this will be felt in the coming months.

I hear one major international banking chain is already developing not one not two but literally hundreds of different iApps. .

This level of wide support for an Apple product would never have happened in the past. In the corporate/enterprise sector, at least, Apple has arrived.

This may change on Microsoft's arrival in the sector with better mobile solutions, but there's no certainty there. People involved in risk management look to winners, not losers, and AAPL with its near-death and legendary comeback is a winner, not a loser.

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