Big Business Takes a [Small] Bite of the Apple

Yes, Apple products are making their way into corporate America. But the numbers are still relatively small.

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While most large organizations aren't supporting large-scale deployments of Apple products, Genentech is an exception. The IT department at the South San Francisco-based biotech company supports more than 2,500 Macintosh computers -- about half of the desktop population -- and some 8,000 iPhones. And it has made the most of user interest in iPads and iPhones, developing apps for tasks ranging from CRM to purchase order approvals and expense reporting.

That's driven in part by the fact that Genentech allows users to choose their own desktop computers. Even so, Macs tend to be used in groups that are less dependent on Windows applications, such as sales, marketing and research. "It's more challenging to deploy the OS X platform in other areas," says enterprise architect David Lee, although Genentech does support some Macs that need access to Windows applications by using virtualization software such as Citrix XenDesktop or VMware Fusion. That software layer, however, adds complexity and cost.

"Our No. 1 recommendation is to look at the applications first," Silver says. "If users need access to Windows applications, they should be running a Windows machine."

Mike Reed, an Apple solutions practice manager at IT services provider Forsythe Solutions Group, sees it differently, arguing that having parallel applications isn't always necessary. For example, Microsoft Vizio files can be read by OmniGraffle on the Mac. "It's less about the app and more about interacting with the data," he says.

Whispering to the Enterprise

Faced with the need to respond to a steady uptake of its products by large businesses, Apple has quietly restructured its enterprise division, focusing more narrowly on "Fortune-level" companies and pushing more of its enterprise business through the reseller channel and its own online sales group, according to an executive at one of Apple's business partners, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified. "They don't have as large a sales force focused on the enterprise as they used to," he says.

Unlike the way other vendors approach the enterprise market, Apple's strategy is to pursue more of a "whisper" campaign. When contacted for this story, Apple declined to comment or even acknowledge the existence of its enterprise program, let alone explain the services it provides to its largest business customers.

Although Apple doesn't want to talk about it, enterprise customers and service providers say that the company does indeed have an organization that caters to the enterprise and that it typically assigns a dedicated account representative, sends an engineer to the customer site for an initial assessment and provides some integration services.

"Apple does a terrific job of tech support for its own devices in a corporate setting, but integration and interoperability with other platforms can be problematic," DiDio says. "They realized that they had to have an enterprise strategy." Last year, Apple created a new business partner certification, the Apple Authorized System Integrator, and anointed four companies -- Forsythe Solutions Group, Milestone Technologies, Agilex and Unisys -- to handle most of that integration and support work.

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