Apple in the Enterprise: For Real This Time?

    Apple has long coveted the enterprise. Starting with the original Apple I and all the way to the iPhone 8, the company has envisioned itself as both a consumer and professional products company.

    The problem for most businesses, however, is that Apple products tend to be more expensive than either Windows or Linux, and outside of niche functions like graphics and video processing, the company has been unable to deliver a value proposition for its higher capital investment.

    The iPhone, of course, upsets this balance. For the first time in computing history, a consumer device has snuck its way into the office, rather than the other way around, which for the most part leaves the enterprise off the hook for that upfront hardware/software investment. But this still leaves many organizations with a problem: how to support Apple products to leverage increasingly mobile workflows while at the same time incorporating them into legacy non-Apple office platforms?

    Last week’s Accenture deal is Apple’s answer. The two companies announced that they are partnering up to bridge the gap between iOS and leading enterprise products from companies like SAP and Cisco. The idea is to create a dedicated iOS development teams within Accenture Digital Studios around the world in order to create new tools and services that integrate with third-party platforms. At the same time, the set-up will look forward to new IoT-facing applications, as well as migration services to help organizations transition legacy apps to iOS.

    Will it work? That’s hard to say. On the plus side, notes The VAR Guy’s Kris Blackmon, iOS owns more than 80 percent of enterprise mobile activities, according to a recent study by Egnyte, which means the vast majority of knowledge workers are already steeped in Apple’s way of provisioning and managing applications. And the deal with Accenture is only the latest in a string of partnerships designed to make it easier for those workers to incorporate more of their working lives onto the platform that guides their personal lives. Last year’s agreement with Deloitte, for instance, is aimed directly at creating native enterprise-class applications for iOS that accelerate the transformation to digital business models while also preserving critical functions like security and governance.

    On the down side, however, is the fact that while Apply may dominate in enterprise mobile applications, it trails behind Android in the overall smartphone market. Forbes’ Adam Hartung points to a recent IDC study that shows Android with more than 80 percent of the smartphone market, which again can be attributed to the fact that Android is licensed by numerous phone manufacturers while only Apple makes the iPhone. Still, Apple offers a more robust feature set than Android, which has made it a favorite of enterprise developers, and it provides a more unified platform that ensures connectivity with other Apple devices and even out-performs Android when it comes to integration with Windows.

    But while iOS is a known quantity at this point, the same can’t be said for the new iPhone 8, which is set to drop later this month and, depending on the source, will be either a game-changer or a total flop. According to MOBI President and Co-founder Josh Garret, the 8 will need several key advancements over the 7 in order to make a run for the enterprise. First, 5G compatibility is a must, given the high-speed nature of business these days. As well, it should be able to multi-task and allow wireless charging to reflect the varied job responsibilities of on-the-go users. Other helpful goodies include an edge-to-edge display, biometric authentication and more storage.

    Anything that can disrupt the sedentary lifestyle of the knowledge workforce should be looked upon as a positive development for the enterprise. Apple has certainly made a significant contribution to data mobility, but it is by no means a shoe-in when it comes to capturing enterprise workflows. After trying, and failing, to work its way into the enterprise mainstream so many times, it’s understandable that skepticism surrounds this latest effort – even if the technology argument seems rock solid.

    Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.

    Arthur Cole
    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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