Apple Creates Direct Sales Force to Attract Enterprise Users

Apple's deeper push into the enterprise marketplace follows its recent moves to provide its first-ever dedicated service and support for enterprise users, according to a report.

Apple in the enterprise

Apple is developing a full-time sales effort to boost its sales of its computer hardware and services to enterprise business users as the company pushes to expand its sales and influence in wider markets. The nascent "dedicated sales force" at Apple was revealed in a Nov. 10 Reuters report that was based in interviews with unnamed sources.

"Experts say the company hopes to offset a gradual deceleration in growth—highlighted by iPad sales that have declined three straight quarters—by expanding its footprint in the workplace," Reuters reported. The initiative involves discussions with potential customers such as Citigroup, as well as talks with "a dozen or so developers," the article said.

The expansion into deeper business computing sales comes on the heels of other recent business-related moves by Apple, including the partnership deal announced in July between Apple and IBM that matches up Apple's devices with IBM's global sales and support services. Earlier in November, Apple also announced the formation of its first formal AppleCare for Enterprise service offering to provide direct and specialized support to enterprise technology users. With those two recent developments already under way, the development of a dedicated business sales effort also makes perfect sense for Apple.

"Details remain scant, but some industry experts say that the tie-up with Big Blue gives Apple an opportunity to begin to challenge Hewlett Packard's and Dell's dominance of office IT, and Oracle and SAP's command of work applications," the Reuters report said. "Depending on its progress, it may hamper Microsoft, Samsung's or Google's own efforts in the nascent market for mobile work applications."

To develop the deeper business sales efforts, Apple has so far been working "closely with a group of startups, including ServiceMax and PlanGrid, that already specialize in selling apps to corporate America," according to the report. "The two people familiar with the plans, but who could not speak publicly about them, say Apple is already in talks with other mobile enterprise developers to bring them into a more formal partnership."

Apple has also been "sending dedicated sales teams to talk to chief information officers" within various companies, including Citigroup, the report stated. Apple is also holding dinner presentations with other companies about the concept, Reuters reported.

Apple did not respond on Nov. 11 to an email inquiry from eWEEK about the reported enterprise sale initiatives.

The company's new AppleCare for Enterprise effort surfaced on Apple's Website earlier this month with little fanfare and without any kind of press announcement. Under the terms of the new AppleCare program, Apple enterprise customers will be able to receive everything from 24/7 phone support to priority on-site repairs and personalized assistance from Apple experts so that businesses can keep their Apple devices working smoothly, according to the Website. Pricing was not disclosed.

A key feature of the new service is that businesses will get their own AppleCare account manager, who will be a personal liaison between a business and Apple, can review the internal IT infrastructure, track issues and provide monthly activity reports for support calls and repairs, according to Apple.

Under the AppleCare for Enterprise program, enterprises will receive IT department-level support by phone or email for all Apple hardware and software as well as support for complex deployment and integration scenarios, including mobile device management (MDM) and Active Directory.

On-site service will be provided through IBM's global support network, under the partnership arrangement between the two companies. Companies can designate six people to be technical contacts for the program, and more contacts can be added for additional fees, according to Apple. For urgent issues, one-hour response time can be expected. The AppleCare for Enterprise program also can provide 24/7 telephone technical support for a company's employees for Apple hardware and operating systems; Apple apps such as Keynote, Pages and Numbers; and personal accounts or settings.

The support partnership deal is a good mesh for both companies since IBM never previously succeeded in phones or tablets and Apple has never made big data analytics and other enterprise software, according to an earlier eWEEK report.