As evidenced by its record-shattering earnings report, Apple is making significant inroads in the enterprise. Could what was once an unimaginable prospect now be certain?
Is Apple taking over the enterprise? No, it couldn't be, could it? Well, not yet, anyway, but the day it does may no longer be as much unlikely as inevitable.
Apple's record-shattering earnings report, in which it doubled its profits and revenues during the peak fourth calendar quarter, showed that the company's iPhones, iPads and even Mac computers continue to be major hits with consumers. But Apple's officials also underscored that it is making significant inroads in the enterprise, a prospect once unimaginable.
During its earnings call Jan. 24, Apple said sales of iPhones and iPads more than doubled -- the company sold more than 37 million iPhones and 15.4 million iPads -- and the overall installed base of iPads is 55 million (devices based on iOS altogether total more than 315 million units). The number of iPads shipped in the quarter outsold all of the major PC vendors; Hewlett-Packard came closest with 15.1 million units, according to IDC's PC Tracker report, released earlier in January.
An unspecified but nevertheless significant portion of iOS-based devices are used in the enterprise, Apple CEO Tim Cook pointed out. "The thing that is very different about the iPad is you can see it beginning to appear virtually everywhere," Cook said on the conference call. "The enterprise has adopted it in a very large percentage of the Fortune 500." As examples of major iPad users, company officials pointed to real estate brokers Coldwell Banker and Sotheby's Realty and retailer Bed Bath & Beyond. There is also broad interest in the iPad in sectors such as pharmaceuticals, health care, financial services and manufacturing.
As for the iPhone, it has been adopted by enterprises such as Royal Dutch Shell, Kimberly Clark, St. Jude Medical, Nike and Facebook.
A recent report in The New York Times pointed to some substantial enterprise deployments of Apple products, including at retailer Lowe's, which supports 42,000 iPhones; the newly merged United-Continental Airlines, which gave 11,000 pilots iPads to access flight documentation; and Siemens Energy, which equipped field technicians who service wind turbines with iPads.
Shipments of Mac computers are also on the rise (5.2 million shipped for the quarter, up 26 percent year over year), with many of them working their way into businesses. General Electric has rolled out 1,000 Macs to its employees, The Wall Street Journal reported last week. While that's only a fraction of its 330,000 employee-workforce, GE expects the number of Macs to grow, according to the report. GE has also adopted iPhones and iPads.
A report released Jan. 26 by Forrester Research validates Apple's enterprise inroads. Currently, 27 percent of enterprises now support the iPad and another 31 percent say they are interested in doing so, according to a survey of 3,350 IT hardware decision-makers in North America and Western Europe. Among some other findings from the study, which also includes a survey of 10,000 workers worldwide:
- About one in five (21 percent) use at least one Apple product for work.
- This year, 55 percent of IT decision makers will support the iPhone, up from 37 percent last year.
- Last year, 46 percent of enterprises issued Macs to employees, up more than 50 percent in two years.
Enterprise customers are estimated to have spent $6 billion on Macs and the same amount on iPads in 2011, according to Forrester's Global Tech Market Outlook for 2012 and 2013, released earlier this month. This year, Forrester predicts those figures will increase to $9 billion spent on Macs and $10 billion on iPads. In 2013, Forrester forecasts $12 billion spent on Macs and $16 billion on iPads.
A study released this week by Avanade found that 75 percent of IT decision makers now have the infrastructure in place to support devices owned by consumers, notably tablets and smartphones. Moreover, many IT organizations are letting employees run enterprise apps on those devices. Forty-five percent run CRM apps, 44 percent run time- and expense-tracking software, and 30 percent run ERP systems on the devices.
New enterprise management tools that now support iPads, including Microsoft's new System Center 2012, promise to give IT managers and systems integrators a tighter grip on those devices, regardless of who owns them, experts say. Now the challenge is to make apps oriented at PCs more suitable for iPads and other tablets.
"We think there is a huge upcoming need for optimizing that user experience," said Ryan McCune, Avanade's senior director of innovation and incubation. "One of the big challenges is enterprises have thousands of apps, both traditional and Windows apps but also Web applications. It's going to take awhile to work through that application portfolio for consumption on those types of devices. It's happening today. Many organizations are paralyzed because there aren't frameworks to help address the application portfolio end to end."
For example, within an enterprise, there may be one group that's responsible for native application development, another for line-of-business applications written in HTML but not optimized for mobile devices, and yet another group responsible for Windows-based applications.
"At the CIO level, I think there's a desire to provide access to that whole array of applications to the business," McCune said. "There's a need to strategize and understand what the roadmap looks like for mobile-enabling the enterprise application portfolio."
According to the Avanade study, 91 percent of C-level executives and 75 percent of IT decision makers report they now have staff and resources required to manage consumer devices. And 62 percent of IT decision makers said it was relatively easy to integrate employee-owned devices with their internal applications and networks.
While Apple was the most preferred vendor overall by consumers who bring their own devices to work, the most popular phones are those based on Google's Android platform. The top three preferred phones were Androids, iPhones and BlackBerrys.