Apple confirms the hybrid workplace is here to stay

"It would seem that work from home and the productivity of working from home will remain very critical," said Apple CEO Tim Cook.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook believes many of his company’s enterprise customers will continue to support hybrid workforces once the threat of COVID-19 recedes.

Work from home ‘very critical’

Cook's comments came as he was discussing his company’s record-breaking Q2 21 results. “It seems like many companies will be operating in a hybrid kind of mode,” he said about record-setting Mac and iPad sales. “And so, it would seem that work from home and the productivity of working from home will remain very critical.”

Apple shared some data that may help illustrate how the pandemic has driven a work (and learn) from home equipment sales jamboree, with record sales in every product category and geography.

“About two thirds of people buying Mac or iPad are doing so for the first time” in some regions, he said.

Citing cross-industry supply constraints of some components, he also warned: “Expect to be supply-gated, not demand-gated when it comes to Mac and iPad sales across the rest of the year.”

Apple experiences major enterprise deployment

As is customary during earnings calls, Luca Maestri, Apple's CFO, mentioned several major Apple product deployments that emerged during the just gone quarter. “In the enterprise market, customers across many industries are accelerating their adoption of iPhone 12 and 5G as a key platform for the future of their business,” he said. Among them:

  • Delta Airlines: As announced yesterday, Delta is giving tens of thousands of iPhone 12s to flight attendants. These will be used to improve passenger services in numerous ways, including interesting usage of AR.
  • UK provider Openreach, which is providing tens of thousands of iPhone 12s to field service engineers to accelerate broadband deployment.
  • UC Health in Colorado, which reduced patient vaccination time from 3 minutes to 30 seconds by migrating to iPhones from PCs.

Apple’s WFH opportunity

When it comes to enterprise deployment, Apple will likely continue to benefit from the work-from-home trend. Loup Ventures analyst Gene Munster says:

“Apple will remain a growth story for the foreseeable future. The company will benefit from a multi-year 5G cycle, an accelerating digital transformation driving demand for its products and services, and eventual new product categories.”

“Demand feels very strong right now,” said Cook. ...On the Mac side, you have the combination of the M1 and work from home and remote learning, and on iPad, you've got remote learning and work from home as well.”

Cook’s observation that both Macs and iPads benefit from the global adoption of hybrid working models seems particularly appropriate given the recent introduction of the M1-powered iPad Pro. With the same processor now inside both Macs and iPads, industry watchers expect Apple to make some big changes to the iPad UI so users can properly exploit that locked in power.

[Also read: Fueled by pandemic shifts, mobile is now even more critical]

Cook’s understanding that both products serve these markets hints at a wider understanding across Apple of the importance of both product families to the needs of enterprise professionals. What we don’t know is whether this will extend to further evolutions in multitasking, or lead to support for professional apps such as Final Cut Pro, Xcode or Logic X.

Meanwhile the macro-trend remains. More than 70% of employees want to continue to work remotely when the pandemic recedes. There is also a great deal of support for hybrid working models.

Writing on LinkedIn, HSBC CEO Noel Quinn said that once the pandemic ends he wants to be able to reconnect with colleagues in an open plan office environment, but also intends “moving to a hybrid model across HSBC.”

General Motors, MUFG, and others are scaling back real estate investments in favor of hybrid working models. This shift is visible across most nations; even the European Central Bank has announced plans for hybrid work.

Apple has quite clearly benefitted from this trend, which means both personal and professional uses of devices are becoming even more closely combined as in most cases both take place on the same device.

I expect we’ll get some sense as to how Apple sees this transformation at WWDC when we learn to what extent the next iterations of the company's operating systems reflect this deep societal change.

Perhaps the iPad pointer will at least develop a Mac like cursor when used with an external mouse. Perhaps Apple has more profound changes to boost collaboration and communication in mind. We should know more soon.

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Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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