Apple, the company that was started by two Steves in a garage, has grown into one of the most successful companies in the tech industry. From the iPod to the iPhone to the Mac, Apple offers several products that make it an ideal choice for consumers. But a recent study suggests that Apple is winning customers in the corporate world too.
According to ChangeWave Research, more companies plan to add new computers to their operations during the next quarter. Nine percent of those buying new computers plan to buy MacBook Pros for employees, while 7 percent of respondents said they plan to buy desktop Macs. If those figures hold up, Apple could capture its stated goal of 8 to 10 percent market share in the enterprise.
It’s no small feat — especially for a company that has never really cared about the business world.
Since the release of the Macintosh more than 25 years ago, Apple’s relationship with the enterprise has been practically non-existent. Although it has consistently released Macs that are powerful and appealing to the business world, its policy of closed-down operating systems isn’t conducive to building a strong enterprise relationship.
Business customers have strict requirements for software makers. They expect security patches to be updated in a timely fashion. They want companies that offer operating systems to form strong, lasting relations with third-party developers to ensure all the applications they need will be built for the platform. And they expect all hardware accessories and dongles to work with the OS.
Admittedly, it’s a tall order. Microsoft’s Windows platform is bloated today because of its desire to appeal to the enterprise. But Apple’s policy since the beginning has been one that’s marked by doing things its own way. Apple doesn’t release security patches when it should. It’s not concerned about building strong relationships with third parties. In essence, Apple believes that the core of its business strategy is to control all aspects of its operating system. It has helped keep the operating system slightly more secure, but it has also created a situation where the enterprise doesn’t quite trust that Apple will provide the experience it’s looking for.
I don’t think Apple cares. The company has never catered to the enterprise. It has sold products to the enterprise. For the most part, it has always maintained a strategy that stays true to its core business — hardware sales to consumers.
Today, not much has changed. The company is still dedicated to bringing products to consumers. The iPod, a core component of its business, is designed specifically for the consumer. The Apple TV has no use in the enterprise. And some can make the argument that Mac OS X is far more consumer-friendly than business-friendly.
But the iPhone is Apple’s single crossover product. It appeals to both the corporate world and consumers. With push e-mail, calendar and contacts, as well as tethering and Exchange support, it’s certainly the most business-friendly product Apple has ever released.
And it’s probably also the reason why Apple has been able to gain more OS market share in the enterprise.
The Halo effect
The iPhone is, arguably, Apple’s most important product. Once a consumer gets their hands on an iPhone, they start getting used to it. They like it. Suddenly, they realize that perhaps they should try out more Apple products. So, they move to the iPod, and then, maybe, to the Mac.
That same consumer appeal is helping Apple in the enterprise. It’s not doing anything to really attract business customers, but by appealing to consumers, Apple is succeeding in the corporate environment. It’s the same strategy the company employed since the beginning. Only now, it’s starting to pay off.
But why is that? Why is the Mac suddenly making in-roads in the enterprise? Perhaps it’s because the iPhone is Apple’s most “open” platform. Apple has opened the device to third-party developers to create (practically) anything they want. Today, more than 50,000 apps are currently available in the App Store. They appeal to everyone from the gamer to the CEO.
Realizing that, you would think Apple would see that and try to replicate it with Mac OS X. But so far, it hasn’t. And I don’t expect it to do it anytime soon.
Apple is committed to consumers. And if the enterprise starts falling in line, great. If not, I don’t think Apple cares one bit.
So, while it’s happy to see its enterprise market share grow, Apple knows it had little to do with it.