Apple was once upon a time almost exclusively used outside of the Enterprise, seen more as the preserve of discerning consumers, graphic designers, and students, while Microsoft remained king in the office. That’s no longer the case, although Microsoft is still widespread in enterprises. Apple’s come a long way since it positioned itself as the youthful upstart and trendier alternative to Microsoft way back in its 1997 “Think Different” campaign.
Apple’s Growth in the Enterprise
Apple products have entered the enterprise at a brisk pace over the years, usually at the behest of employees, whose fondness for their personal Apple products is often cited as a key driver for adoption. A 2015 survey conducted by Tech Pro Research found that 84 percent of respondents’ companies had adopted Apple products for in-office use because their employees had requested it, or in order to give their workers the freedom to choose their platforms. Moreover, those that were drawn into the Apple ecosystem tended to have a positive experience, with 32 percent of Apple adopters reporting fewer IT maintenance calls and another 31 percent reporting that it was easier to use Apple tech. As Tech Pro Research’s Jordan Golson writes: “Apple was relegated to home use for decades, but it’s now flooding boardrooms and sales floors with its easy-to-use mobile devices.”
In particular, Golson notes that Apple used its iPhones and iPads to lure enterprise users into its ecosystem and expose them to its benefits: “”For years, Apple has used certain products to entice people into the Apple ecosystem. First it was the iPod, which was the first Apple product for millions. The iPhone got a slow start initially, but really hit its stride with the iPhone 4, which sold tremendously well. The iPad attracted even more first-time Apple buyers.”
As of last year, a Dimensional Research survey found that, of the 300 IT professionals it polled, 99 percent said their organization used iPhones and iPads. Moreover, 91 percent said that they used Macs. Moreover, 76 percent of organizations saw an increase in iPhone and iPad adoption, and 74 percent saw an increase in Mac adoption. The survey also writes, “IT admins confirmed Apple is as easy, if not easier, to manage compared to its rivals on six critical tasks.”
Apple v. Microsoft
The Apple versus Microsoft debate feels a little tired and outdated, given that both have been doing well for some time now. With that being said, Apple has a lot of room for growth in cubicles across the world. As Golson wrote in 2015: “Still, Apple has a long way to go…Apple accounts for less than 20 percent of the hardware budget at two-thirds of companies surveyed, and while nearly all companies using Apple products are using its iPhone and iPad portable devices, the pricier Mac is still far behind in adoption.”
Earlier this month, Apple basically revealed to Techcrunch that Windows 10 alone is four times more popular than macOS or OS X, noting that it had 100 million active Mac users worldwide. Windows 10, on the other hand, boasts 400 million active users across the world. That, in itself, isn’t too surprising for a number of reasons. For one, Microsoft has traditionally dominated the desktop market. And, it’s crucial to note that Windows 10 is available on far more tablets and desktops than macOS and iOS. Finally, it’s easier to buy low-end Windows 10 devices, whereas Apple’s iPhones, iPads, and Macs tend to be pricier, limiting options for companies that have tight budget constraints.
But these numbers also suggest that the competition is starting to heat up and that Apple needs to start responding to user complaints, or face withering criticism and lose business as it did with its latest line of MacBook Pros. Last December, Microsoft announced that professional users had begun switching over to the Surface due to their “disappointment” over the newest refresh of the MacBook Pro: “More people are switching from Macs to Surface than ever before. Our trade-in program for MacBooks was our best ever, and the combination of excitement for the innovation of Surface coupled with the disappointment of the new MacBook Pro – especially among professionals – is leading more and more people to make the switch to Surface, like this.”
Despite the limitations that come with it, Apple’s exclusivity has also benefited the company. The fact that it imposes tight quality controls and keeps its iOS and macOS exclusive has kept things consistent and efficient, making it easier for IT specialists to deploy security updates. High quality comes at a premium, but also saves money over time by reducing the need for repairs and replacements.
That premium also keeps Apple’s profit margins enviably large. To put things in perspective, it’s helpful to realize that Apple has a very different business model from other PC makers. Despite its relatively low market share, Apple enjoys higher profit margins and makes a hefty $25 billion a year on Macs alone, with MacBooks comprising 80 percent of all Mac shipments, The Verge reports. And, despite all the gripes and bellyaching over the need for dongles, MacBook Pro sales grew 20 percent year-over-year in the last fiscal quarter. In the first quarter of 2017, Apple saw a 4.5 percent increase in PC shipments, which is something of a rarity.
Apple is an exceptional company in many regards. For example, it’s an exception to conventional wisdom, which holds that PC makers must start selling to enterprises as consumer demand declines, or exit the market.
“Some consumers have abandoned the PC market altogether,” Mikako Kitagawa, a Gartner analyst, said to Marketwatch. “Consumer life is running with smartphones from the morning till evening, but their life is not running with PC.”
Apple, on the other hand, doesn’t find itself in a similar sink-or-swim situation, as its enviable sales numbers suggest, because it has a very solid and dedicated consumer base.
“The top three vendors — Lenovo, HP and Dell — will battle for the large-enterprise segment,” Kitagawa said. “The market has extremely limited opportunities for vendors below the top three, with the exception of Apple, which has a solid customer base in specific verticals.”
In fact, to break into the enterprise market, Kitagawa notes, Apple would have to sacrifice some of its large profit margins.
Moving Beyond Macs: Apps and Apple TVs
It may not be embroiled in a desperate fight for survival like other PC vendors, but that isn’t to say that Apple doesn’t have ambitions for the enterprise market. At the end of March, Apple and SAP launched an enterprise-oriented Cloud Platform software development kit (SDK) for iOS. The kit gives developers the tools to build custom enterprise applications for iOS in Swift, Apple’s new programming language, making it easier for businesses to deliver mobile business applications to customers or its own employees.
“Our focus is on helping iOS developers speed up their productivity,” said Rick Knowles, SAP senior vice president and general manager, Apple partnership. “It will also enable better efficiency in the creation of mobile applications that developers want to create in and with iOS.”
It has also adopted a unique approach that may have major ramifications for enterprises– focusing on applications that serve the needs of workers. With luck, Apple will not only cement itself as a major enterprise presence by growing a major enterprise ecosystem based on iOS, it will also boost the productivity of workers within businesses with sleek and easy-to-use applications.
“Let’s look at the individual people that are actually doing the work and let’s help them be more productive,” said Knowles. “Let’s create beautiful applications that hide all the complexity and give workers the tools they need to execute their jobs in a simple, easy way. That’s the ultimate goal for enterprise users.”
In addition, Jamf, a global company that provides Apple device management services, recently announced expanded Mobile Device Management features for Apple TV. The idea is to make it easy for businesses like hotels and colleges to deploy Apple TVs en masse, and configure them with custom applications simultaneously.
“Having the ability to automatically deploy custom applications for Apple TV opens an abundant of transformational use cases in classrooms, hotel rooms, hospital rooms, board rooms and lobbies”, Jamf CEO, Dean Hager said to ComputerWorld. “The Apple TV can be plug-and-play digital signage, a kiosk, collaboration tool or entertainment system. Teachers can display historic pictures or maps with the command of their voice.”
Apple TVs may not traditionally be thought of as enterprise devices, but they certainly have a future as enterprise hubs that control smart devices, in boardrooms, classrooms, and hotel lobbies.
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