From zero to hero? Hexnode's CEO on Apple in the enterprise

Cross-platform endpoint management solutions provider Hexnode offers a look at how enterprise IT has changed in the last decade.

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Hexnode, a cross-platform unified endpoint management firm, is recognized by both Forrester and Gartner as an enterprise mobility solutions provider that since 2013 has worked with business clients to lock things down. I recently spent a little virtual time with Hexnode CEO Apu Pavithran to talk Apple in the enterprise and the future of work.

Pavithran recounted how much change enterprise IT has seen in the past decade, and where things may be going now with Apple as more of enterprise player.

A decade of change

Think back to 2010Mobile hardware in the workplace was heavy on BlackBerry, ThinkPads, and a smattering of mobile devices. Apple’s iPhone was certainly the consumer smartphone of choice, but the BYOD wave hadn’t yet hit business.

As consumers quickly embraced smartphones in their day-to-day life, they also began insisting on using them at work. “This movement paved way for Apple’s enterprise evolution,” said Pavithran.

Since then, Apple has paid increasing attention to the needs of enterprise IT. Apple Push Notification Services, Apple VP, Apple Business Manager, the Fleetsmith acquisition, and critical partnerships with the likes of SAP, IBM, Jamf, Deloitte, and Cisco.

Those efforts have paid off. “Previously trying to manage applications, titles, device settings, program licensing, and federated AD logins were nightmares for the IT department. The introduction of these services, and especially the Apple business manager (ABM), made things easier for IT admins,” said Pavithran.

“Mac adoption in the enterprise saw tremendous growth and iOS devices slowly became the mobile industry tool of choice.”

His comments echo those of Cisco’s general manager and executive vice president Jeetu Patel, who told me recently: "I don’t believe you can be a credible provider of enterprise software if you’re not part of the Apple ecosystem today,”

On the competition

The Hexnode CEO doesn’t think Apple is ahead on everything. He points to some recent Android enhancements as being advantageous, but notes that  Cupertino is only slightly behind.

“Apple's hardware and software are spot on and it does deliver in performance, security, and [reducing] the attack surface within an enterprise. They also do meet the checklist when it comes to managing corporate-owned devices, COBO or Kiosks for that matter. But for a full-fledged BYOD, User Enrolment still falls short of Google's Work Profile.”

Microsoft, of course, remains in the game, too. From a multi-platform perspective, Pavithran sees the company's move to offer Windows as a subscription represents as noteworthy, though it is limited by price.

“From a business standpoint ,paying $31/user/month for a basic dual-core remote PC when you can get a sizable business laptop with pre-installed Windows on a lease at costs less than $10/month — the math doesn’t make sense,” he said.

On employee choice

As the Great Resignation intensifies, businesses are transforming the workplace to tempt and retain good staffers. Hybrid work is rapidly becoming a must-have option, and employee choice remains critical. “When employees are comfortable with the system, then their work gets easier,” Pavithran said.

As a result, it makes sense for IT to “automate everything that can be automated so people can spend time on tasks that actually matter.”

Reflecting Apple’s argument around consumer satisfaction and brand appeal, he said: “[Employees] are happier when you provide them with a Mac or an iPhone. One recent U.S. survey showed that 71% of people prefer Mac over any other for their work PC. It’s true that Apple devices cost a bit more initially, but in three to five years they offer better value for money than a regular PC as they offer regular OS and security updates. Bundled with AppleCare for maintenance and pretty good buyback offers, it is lighter on the wallet."

Incoming technologies and emerging challenges

Apple and Facebook/Meta will be battling in augmented reality in the next few years. Is there a real enterprise opportunity to be had there? Hexnode’s boss thinks so. “AR in the enterprise could be absolutely amazing in the next five years,” he said.

Retailers are already using the tech, though Pavithran voices some concerns – which will probably be echoed by every enterprise: “Although on AR glasses, It is indeed fun and there is a ton of functionality, ...I am still not sure how much privacy and data security they will offer.”

Meanwhile, the downside of the move to hybrid workplaces includes the rapid proliferation of threats to security. “Phishing/ransomware incidents are rising at an alarming rate. If we look at cybersecurity news on a regular basis, there is at least one major cyberattack each month," he said. 

In the remote/hybrid age, with people working in living rooms or from anywhere they please, the risk becomes more serious. “Enterprise security often gets overlooked and it is crucial for businesses to take necessary measures to safeguard their data.”

How to secure your endpoints

Given Hexnode’s business is around endpoint security and management, it’s not a big surprise its CEO evangelizes solutions of that kind. But the biggest challenge remains the hardest to solve: humans are the weakest link in tech security. “Some general suggestions would be to avoid using public Wi-Fi and Bluetooth services since threat actors can exploit vulnerabilities,” he said.

Pavithran also says it's good practice to avoid using personal devices for work, though data separation may help reduce the risks of bleed between corporate and personal digital data space.

From zero to hero: Apple in the enterprise

Hexnode's clients include Volvo, Lowes, Target, Swatch and others and the company says it can support Macs, iPhones, iPads, and Apple TV alongside Windows and Android systems — all using the same management tools.

That flexibility reflects just how rapidly Apple continues to grow in the enterprise technology space. In the last decade, it has made a major transition. It is no longer an also-ran in enterprise tech, it has become a respected peer. At a time when tech itself – and the nature of the workplace – is also engaged in rapid transition, means big opportunities for those who surf the wave.

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Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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