Apple's place is in the enterprise

With powerful new hardware, an increasing number of large-scale deployments and the ability to easily manage and support those deployments, Apple's place is in the office.

apple oct more in the making event

If one word could describe Apple's October, it would have to be "pro."

Between the JAMF conference last week, which highlighted how to deploy, manage, and develop apps in the workplace to Apple's repeated mention of business environments as it unveiled the new MacBook Air, Mac mini, and iPad Pros in Brooklyn on Tuesday, it's clear that Apple is no longer an outlier in business and enterprise environments; its tools, across the board, belong in the office as much as in the home or at school.

Of course, Apple has been creating solutions with enterprise capabilities for some time - and employees and executives have been bringing iPhones and iPads into the office for almost a decade. And yet something seems to have shifted in the enterprise IT world that makes Apple a major force across multiple industries. Surprisingly, it isn't the architecture of either Apple or its competitors.

What's changed is the sheer scale of Apple's presence in the business world. For years we've talked about the number of companies opening up to Apple (and other non-PC platforms like ChromeOS and Android) along with Apple's focus on enterprise core competencies like security, ease of deployment, network support, and so on. But the size of most of those deployments was often limited, as was the depth of those deployments. Typically, there was support for basics like Exchange, VPN, Office and other productivity tools - maybe a modest enterprise app store.

It was easy to think of Apple as largely an enterprise upstart that just happened to be able to integrate into business processes. But it's been moving well beyond that limited presence.

Teaming up with IBM, SAP and others

The figures for IBM's Mac@IBM program, SAP's mobile and desktop adoption and several other massive deployments, some of which are well-known and some of which aren't, are incredibly significant. The Apple devices being deployed at greater scales mean that Apple is an equal party in the enterprise technology market. Integrations by companies like Microsoft and other key enterprise brands like Cisco aren't after-thoughts where traditional enterprise vendors threw Apple a bone here are there. The level of integration has grown to rival PCs.

To illustrate the size of Apple's iPad business alone, CEO Tim Cook this week compared the tablet's installed base to Windows notebooks across the board. Emphasizing the point: The power behind the newest iPad Pros easily rivals many desktops, one the door for Apple to make even further inroads.

Apple iPad Pro (3rd Generation) / 11-inch and 12-inch models Apple

In fact, there's been serious discussion that the available power from the iPad Pro's new A12 Bionic chip effectively outstrips the needs of many iPad users, even in business. The emerging consensus is that while the iPad Pro has all the raw power it needs for the foreseeable future, the "non-Pro" 9.7-in. model (the descendant of the iPad Air and Air 2) already has enough to do a variety of typical business tasks: run Office, access electronic medical records in a hospital, or manage hospitality services in retail, air travel and in hotels.

Most business won't likely have iPhone, iPad or Mac deployments that range into the tens or hundreds of thousands of devices, but there is a growing number that do. Looks around your office. It's likely that there are many more Apple laptops, smartphones and tablets than there were even a few years ago. And the company is pushing forward, joining with its partners to build out support to handle those deployments while retaining an intrinsically Apple experience.

'No step three'

This was one of the big themes at JAMF's conference this year, the concept of "there's no step three." With the enterprise configuration system Apple has built using Apple Business Manager and the related Device Enrollment Program (DEP) and Volume Purchase Program (VPP), companies can have a device drop-shipped to a remote worker - with the hardware still in shrink-wrap - and it will automatically enroll in the company's management suite, download updates and security certificates, apply configuration profiles, and download predetermined apps (both public and internal). The user need do nothing except power on the device, connect to the internet and get busy working.

That's powerful and almost magical for the end user, very easy to set up and manage for IT, and it is incredibly scalable. That's why large corporations are able to manage deployments of these sizes.

What's also important is that Apple has achieved that scalability by not trying to do everything itself. Although it could have opted to create its own proprietary deployment, management, and support solutions (as well as a litany of Apple-only business apps), the company was smart enough to not make that its focus from the early days of iOS.

iOS plays nice

When the company launched the iPhone 3G in 2008 along with the App Store and the second version of the iPhone OS (now iOS), it didn't try to force iPhone users into its email and collaboration tools. Instead, it built in native support for Exchange. Two years later, when the company introduced enterprise management and deployment features in iOS 4, which debuted alongside the original iPad, Apple built a framework allowing third-party companies in the enterprise to provide much of IT-facing management tools. It's a methodology Apple has doubled down on again and again in the years since.

Apple knows it's good at making hardware and software that people have a very personal experience with, and it has focused on doing just that. That allows partners and other vendors to take on the responsibility for making its products work in the business world.

I don't think anybody in 2008 would've predicted how game-changing iOS and its support for business and enterprise would be, much as the smartphone industry missed the import of the first iPhone. At some points along the way, it's seemed as if even Apple has been following the trend as much as leading it.

Apple growth will continue

As 2018 winds down, Apple is now one of the biggest vendors of technology to business. And after seeing things like the Adobe Photoshop demo in Brooklyn, as well as the sheer size of Apple hardware deployments across the business spectrum, it's clear that the enterprise market is huge for the company, and that it isn't going to rest on any laurels.

As the consumer mobile computing market, particularly the smartphone market, becomes saturated, business offers Apple a compelling place to grow; Apple is clearly already working to capitalize on that. Which brings me back to the new iPad Pro and the updated MacBook Air. I've heard several people ask whether the iPad Pro could cannibalize business sales of the Mac.

To me, that question Is the wrong one for two reasons. The first is that sales of either are good for Apple. More significantly, if the new iPad Pro is going after any target in business, it's going after the PC. That's what makes the scale of Apple deployments we're seeing - and the Apple ecosystem's ability to support them - so important.

Get used to seeing more of Apple at work.

Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

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