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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When it comes to interoperability with existing tools for managing Windows environments, the options are even more limited. The tools are enterprise-class, says Charles Edge, lead engineer at 318 Inc., an Apple-authorized reseller and professional services provider. But he acknowledges that "they're not as well integrated with tools for other platforms as they could be."

Many of the same issues come up when trying to manage enterprise apps, enterprise app stores and mobile data on iPhones and iPads, says White. "Those are workable today but not a slam dunk. It requires significant integration work and control frameworks."

A Matter of Focus

From Apple's perspective, the enterprise is a niche market, and a very small one at that. Shipments of Macs to enterprise customers, for example, amounted to just 3% of all Mac sales in the U.S. last year, according to IDC.

The company's discontinuation of its Xserve server line last year further underscores the point that Apple's focus remains on its bread and butter -- the consumer -- and that there are limits as to how far it's willing to go to satisfy the demands of enterprise customers.

"Apple doesn't want to change its business to accommodate enterprises," says Silver. "They want to sell to the enterprise with their current business model. And to some extent, that's working."

For now, at least, it's the enterprise, not Apple, that has to bend. Demand from users of iPads and iPhones, and a push to allow users to bring their own computers to work, requires some level of accommodation by IT. "The reality is that most companies are not going to have a choice. They're going to have to work with that business model," says USAA's Schwartz.

But accommodation has its limits. To Kamer at St. Luke's, Apple isn't an enterprise partner the way that companies like Microsoft and HP are. "Apple is changing the game on how we deal with them as a vendor due to the popularity of their devices." But, he adds, "this is why we do not plan on purchasing their devices for the enterprise. Bring-your-own-computer is the only way we can see them being integrated. But even this has many challenges from a management and security standpoint."

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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