Canalys has really, really good news for Apple in the enterprise

Apple is winning over the channel partners it needs to make sure its solutions sit at the center of enterprise IT.

Apple, iOS, iPhone, Mac, enterprise tech, enterprise IT, digital transformation

When you want to get your computers into the enterprise, you need to enlist support from channel partners — and Apple’s moves to reach closer alliances with the biggest names in that space certainly seem to be paying off.

Partnerships are good for Apple's business

Apple has reached partnerships with some of the biggest names in enterprise tech: IBM, Cisco, JAMF, Deloitte, Accenture, GE, and SAP, among others.

These partnerships work because Apple needs the help of such people in order to ensure its products are deployed across enterprise technology in the most effective way.

There is no value to be gained in just purchasing technology unless you provide the context, training and supporting ecosystem to make the equipment familiar with employees. Enterprise users demand solutions that help them solve real solutions that matter to their business.

Canalys counts channel sentiment

That’s why the latest Canalys Leadership Matrix means so much. (I know this may sound obscure outside of the world of enterprise IT, but it is important.)

Apple “has seen the greatest rating improvement of all vendors tracked over the last 12 months,” Canalys said.

Its survey of 2,700 EMEA channel partners shows significant improvement in how Apple is seen by these enterprise-critical partners, noting that — while it remains rigid in its approach — it has at least become friendlier, prompting significant improvement in how channel players think about the company.

It could enhance its position by offering better margins to partners and relaxing its rigid approach (at least in this sector), but “it is recognizing the importance of the channel to help it deliver solutions,” the analysts said.

‘Proliferating in the enterprise’

This is yet another weathervane to show the profound way in which Apple has boosted its engagement with traditional PC-only enterprise IT.

This engagement means Apple shares significant information every single quarter concerning its growing status in the sector. It has to, as most reportage around the company focuses on the next ‘iThing’ far more than the company’s overall — and so far highly successful — growth strategy.

For example, in the most recent quarter, Apple CFO Luca Maestri noted “great traction” in the enterprise as the industry moves to “standardize” on iOS. “Intesa Sanpaolo, one of Europe's leading banks, has chosen iOS as the mobile standard for its entire 70,000 employee base in Italy,” he said.

Apple's outreach

While it is true to say Apple is fairly reliant on its channel partners as it seeks to build enterprise share, the company is also working to improve its own outreach. During its most recent announcement call, it revealed:

  • A new Apple at Work initiative to help businesses implement employee choice programs
  • New buying and leasing options to be made available via Apple and its channel partners (launched in the U.S. with channel partner CDW in early 2018)
  • On-boarding solutions to help enterprises migrate

In isolation, you could write those off, but Apple's key partners in the space are yielding significant results.

  • Mahmoud Naghshineh, General Manager, Offerings and Solutions, IBM, last year observed that “Apple devices are already pervasive in the enterprise.”
  • Mike Brinker, Global Digital Leader, Deloitte Digital, has called Apple’s products “essential to the modern enterprise.”

We know Apple’s systems deliver a lower TCO than their equivalents, and we know market share is climbing rapidly.

Opportunity knocks

Apple isn’t blind to the opportunity to build opportunity on the back of its presence in the enterprise. iOS 11’s iPad Pro improvements seemed tailor made to transform that product into an essential enterprise notebook replacement for so many tasks, and the company’s decision to cozy up with Cisco, Aon and Allianz to offer enterprise-focused insurance services is a great way to boost proliferation and squeeze a little more margin out of its growing enterprise status.

The other side of the coin is that as enterprises coalesce around iOS, they also move to Mac because they need Macs to build the proprietary software that digital transformation demands they base their businesses on.

“Our anecdotal data indicates that companies are on the verge of expanding their Mac deployments substantially,” MobileIron’s chief marketing and strategy officer, Ojas Rege, told me in 2017.

This in itself opens up new opportunity as the company delivers cutting-edge new technologies such as augmented reality — IKEA wasn’t just a launch partner for ARKit as a consumer-friendly brand, it also occupied a space in showing enterprise users some of the potential of the tech to transform their business.

Has Apple hit critical mass?

That’s hard to say. Despite its growing market position at about 8 to 10 percent PC market share and iOS’ dominance in the enterprise, there is clearly space in which the company can grow.

Security and privacy are also important — consumers deserve to be told how important, but business already knows how essential it is to protect its own data.

Apple’s platform advantages may yet generate critical mass in the enterprise markets, particularly as incumbent 20th century technologies are rapidly replaced with standards-friendly, cloud-based 21st century tools.

Whatever the outcome, it certainly helps that Apple has impressed the channel partners that enterprises have come to rely on as businesses move inexorably into the next big tech upgrade.

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Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

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