It probably won’t be among the themes of its annual developers’ conference or mentioned at the next iPhone launch, but 2018 could be the year Apple technologies become an even larger presence in enterprise environments.
Last Fall, Apple quietly began forming close relationships with IT services firms and resellers who could bring not only its smartphones but iPads, Apple Watches and business-oriented iOS-based applications into corporate settings. Around the same time, Apple announced a partnership with GE to bring the latter’s industrial Internet of Things (IoT) apps to its devices. More recently, Cisco launched what it called the first network security software to monitor iOS devices, Security Connector, on the App Store.
Of course, many B2B professionals have been bringing Apple hardware and applications into their offices for years, sometimes in contravention of their employer’s IT policies. In recognizing the blurring lines between work and play, Apple is taking bigger steps to make its products and services easier to adopt, even if it stops short of actively marketing to businesses in a highly visible way. (A spokesperson for Apple said the company was not available to comment on this story.)
One of Apple’s partners includes Compugen, an IT company based in Richmond Hill, Ont. that developed its own service to provide, configure and support iPhones and related products. This includes deskside support, a 24/7 help desk, managed services and blueprints to assist companies in sectors like retail and utilities that want to get more out of Apple technology.
According to Harry Zarek, Compugen’s president, devices like the iPhone opened the door to Apple, but the emphasis is now on looking at the company’s offerings more holistically.
“It starts with an internal use case — how do I support the business? — and then it becomes a matter of, how do I extend my interactions with customers via the devices that they’re using today?” he told B2B News Network.
“We’ll get called by a CIO or senior exec saying, ‘My CEO has come in and has put an iPad on my desk (but) my policy is (to support) Windows.’ My answer to the CIO is ‘Who’s paying you? Your job is to provide service, not be a blocker to people.”
Zarek says Microsoft has actually facilitated greater use of iOS in businesses with support options in Office 365, as have other more traditional enterprise IT vendors.
“There’s lots of data out there — and we’re going to contribute to it as we build up our skills — that the total cost of ownership of Apple is as good as and in some cases even more cost-effective as other options,” he said.
Of course, Apple has made some ill-fated forays into the enterprise before, with hardware like its Xserve rack and the now-discontinued Cube. However Zarek believes even Apple’s more consumer-oriented products may be a better fit in B2B settings than many people realize.
The Apple Watch, for instance, could be used in lieu of a security pass in some companies, or tracking items in a warehouse. Something like tvOS, meanwhile, can help avoid the frustration of figuring out whether someone needs to connect via a specific cable before they begin a presentation.
“None of these are Earth-shattering but they’re all incremental improvements in the quality of services that a company provides,” Zarek said.
Growth among B2B users may be an easier route for Apple rather than trying to come up with an ongoing series of new products to dazzle consumers. In fact, a recent report from ABI research suggested that the “post-smartphone” era will change how we think about the company.
“As this next wave of innovation approaches, Google and Amazon will emerge as the market’s “leaders” due to continued growth in their apparent strengths. Apple will lag due to innovation complacency,” the ABI report said.
Zarek, however, said Apple’s renewed interest in pleasing marketers, salespeople and other enterprise users comes down to basic customer service.
“It got to the point where these executives literally say to the folks at Apple, ‘I don’t want to go to an Apple Store to get it serviced. This is not the quality of support that I’m getting from anyone else that services the enterprise,’” he said. “It had reached enough of a crescendo that they needed to at it, and they’ve done in a very thoughtful, well-researched fashion.”