Apple CEO Tim Cook Bullish on Enterprise Opportunity at BoxWorks

Apple CEO Tim Cook and Box CEO Aaron Levie shared the keynote stage at the BoxWorks conference in a fireside chat that focused on enterprise customers.

Levie and Cook

SAN FRANCISCO—Apple CEO Tim Cook took pains to tell a packed hall of Box customers here at the BoxWorks conference Sept. 29 that Apple's interest in the enterprise isn't anything new.

"We started many years ago, but kept it quiet, building enterprise features into our software because we realized that people don't want to carry two phones with them," Cook said.

He also noted that the world has changed from one where you had consumer and enterprise products to where in many cases they are one in the same. "You don't say you want an enterprise smartphone or enterprise car or pen," Cook said.

Cook admitted that Apple doesn't have the same depth of knowledge in industry verticals such as health care, finance and construction that other companies have, so it's partnered with the likes of IBM, Microsoft, Cisco and Box.

"We're very happy with how it's going. It's all about giving a suite of applications to the enterprise so we can really change the way people work," said Cook, adding later, "The enterprise is a huge opportunity for us."

Although Apple has been a leading mobile vendor (including the announcement that it shipped more than 13 million of its latest iPhones this past weekend), Cook insisted the opportunity for business and the enterprise is at a very early stage because mobile devices are largely used for basic tasks.

"You look at the penetration in the enterprise, it's shocking how low it is, and shocking how few users go beyond email and browsing" on their mobile devices, Cook said.

He conceded a number of large companies are moving aggressively with their mobile strategy (citing GE and Eli Lilly, customers of content management firm Box, as examples and "pockets" of innovation at other large firms), but added, "I'm not sure anyone, including ourselves, deserves a high grade compared to the opportunity there."

At most companies, Cook said "people are already working flat out, so we're not going to gain productivity by working more hours." Instead, he said, businesses can benefit by embracing mobility more fully. "You have to rethink everything you're doing," said Cook. "There's no doubt in my mind that the best companies will be the most mobile."

In the case of Apple itself, he mentioned how the company rethought the idea of a checkout register at its retail stores. "We don't want customers waiting in a queue, so we bring the checkout to them," he said. When an Apple Store associate helps you with a product and you decide to buy it, you can complete the transaction directly with her using an iPhone or iPad and receive it directly without talking to anyone else in the store.

A Different Strategy From Android

Cook commented that Apple has no plans to merge Mac OS and its mobile iOS operating system.

"There is very little today where we say, 'This is work and this is personal.' They live together. We have no intention to blend them," he said. At the same time, he noted that Apple has incorporated "hand-off" features so users can move between devices, like from the iPad to the iPhone or even to the Apple Watch, and continue working on files or view videos where they left off.

David Needle

David Needle

Based in Silicon Valley, veteran technology reporter David Needle covers mobile, bi g data, and social media among other topics. He was formerly News Editor at Infoworld, Editor of Computer Currents...