A few years ago, Apple dropped the word Computer from its name and claimed for all the world that it was a consumer electronics company. In that time, its market share of the U.S. PC market has risen from about 5.2 percent in the first quarter of '07 to about 8 percent in 2009. It has also revolutionized the smartphone market with the iPhone, beating out 'serious' technology companies like Motorola and Nokia.
Now, on the eve of Apple's much anticipated tablet computer announcement, the online world is buzzing about what will come out of tomorrow's event and how it will take over yet another business space. How is it that Apple has managed to start winning in the enterprise, after getting out of the computer business?
Tablet computers are not new. Companies like Lenovo, Fujitsu and Toshiba have had solid tablet PC offerings for more than five years now. In fact, everyone thought the tablet market would skyrocket when Microsoft released a Tablet version of the Windows XP operating system. Yet they still remain a mostly niche market. In fact, many users have skipped the tablet form factor altogether, and instead found ways to realize all the tablet benefits with smartphones, or with the recent rise of netbooks. Yet everyone expects Apple to set the market on its ears and change things once again.
What most people didn't realize is that when Apple made its switch in direction, it wasn't getting out of the computer business. It wasn't even giving up on penetrating the enterprise market. Instead, it was drawing its line in the sand, and telling people that it was going to make products for the way people live.
Instead of forcing the people to adapt to the product, it made the product adapt to the people. And by hooking the users, the business had to find a way to catch up - because people were now married to their Macs and iPhones and the enterprise better figure out how to support it.
When the App store first opened up for the iPhone, pretty much all you could download were games and other useless time wasters. Now you can literally get any enterprise application you need. You can download a Citrix client for your iPhone and pretty much do anything you want from that platform. Early versions of the operating system didn't support Exchange natively. Notice how quickly that changed?
So what's the moral of the story? Simple-make products people want to use, and everything else will fall into place. At heart, we are all consumers who want the latest and greatest electronic toys. Apple was the first to realize that, and the enterprise was dragged along kicking and screaming. Now, on the verge of Apple taking control of another market space, it's time for its competitors to learn the same lesson, hopefully before it's too late. In the end, it will be good for all business users.