Psst! Apple’s enterprise iPad plans are coming together

The iPad is most definitely an enterprise product.

Apple, iOS, iPad, iPad Pro, IBM, enterprise, BYOD

The enterprise isn’t just desk based. Here’s an iPad being used to manage maintenance for fleet of large equipment used to mine brown coal at RWE Generation.

Credit: IBM

It may go against the way you think the world works but government and enterprise users really do love their iPads, with almost half of all Apple’s tablet sales going to enterprise and government folks.

The plan is working

You can take your pick of ways to look at this news, some may argue that Microsoft Surface is the king of the pack, others may point to low cost Android, but I’m going to counter this by stressing Apple’s leading position in the digital transformation of enterprise IT.

“When given a mobile device choice, nearly 80 percent of all age groups select iOS compared to just 18 percent who choose Android,” another recent survey claimed.

This wasn’t accidental – it reflects how well Tim Cook’s Apple responded to the sea change in enterprise infrastructure created by the popularity of the iPhone and the BYOD movement. "Apple is stronger in the enterprise market with its devices than it is with consumers," Forrester analyst Frank Gillet, told The New York Times.

Partnerships

This has reflected big investments of time and energy by Apple across the sector. Not only has it put the time into ensuring its iOS devices deliver capable enterprise support, but it has crafted good partnerships with the likes of Good Technology, Cisco, Microsoft (really, think about all the Office improvements on iPad) and IBM to enable it to deliver serious solutions to the sector. You can see the success of its work so far by Google’s recent Damascene conversion to support enterprise IT.

Recognizing its weaknesses and strengths, Tim Cook’s partnership-focused company is working with others to raise its enterprise game. It has “quietly kept advancing on this front, using enterprise technology partners such as IBM and Cisco, rather than trying to add capabilities themselves,” Gillett told me. Apple introduced a wave of enterprise-focused changes at WWDC 2016.

Forward vision

Moves like these mean Apple is becoming a much more strategic partner to tech management leaders, and Apple continues to invest in new partnerships and technology acquisitions such as the recently discussed AI-focused Turi purchase. The latter reflects the company’s determination to become a leader in AI, and part of this will involve simplifying the process of identifying and explaining data analytics insights (which is another space in which the Apple/IBM partnership will generate great value).

Seismic shifts

If you are open you will recognize that what is happening here is a seismic shift in enterprise technology. Apple didn’t create these changes alone, but it has made great decisions that enable it to benefit from them.

The change is deep. Asymco’s Horace Dediu explains it thus. The traditional nature of enterprise IT is to equip users (in this case, employees) with the tools they need to get things done. However, to an extent this is changing as the primary tools (mobile devices) are now accessible to employees, and they want to choose the tools they use (that’s BYOD, in a nutshell). Who will they look too when making their choice? Apple. Why? Because Apple has always provided the world’s best creative tools: “Suddenly there is great demand for what they offer,” Dediu told me.

And the Mac

Is Apple about to stop in its attempt? No way. “It is clear that Apple will continue this enterprise strategy, by building in strong enterprise-grade management frameworks to its operating systems to give companies the ability to secure devices, all while preserving the end-user experience,” explains Nick Thompson, Solution Architect at JAMF Software. This has implications beyond iPad, 75 percent of employees will choose a Mac if they get the chance to choose.

Where next?

Apple has been determined in pushing the message that the iPad Pro is becoming the only computer you need. I don’t completely subscribe to this but, year by year, app by app and iOS upgrade by iOS upgrade, Apple’s tablet is becoming a more capable computing device. It’s more than this, of course, as it is capable of being used in situations Macs could never reach. The inherent personalization you get from a platform in possession of tens of thousands of apps also means each user experience is configured to match more precise needs.

“We've seen repeatedly that IBM MobileFirst for iOS apps not only help companies boost customer service, but are also a powerful tool to attract and retain top-tier talent,” Mahmoud Nagshineh, general manager, Apple partnership, IBM, told me.

The next step must surely be to continue to develop Apple’s iPad range until it matches the inherent Apple promise of replacing the computer. However, with TouchID anticipated on future Macs, just how far will Apple go to realise this kind of platform parity?

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