Apple devices are becoming more common in the enterprise market. Their popularity is pushed by pure osmotic pressure from the bottom up. That is from the users that already buy Apple products for their home use.
In the past week AppleInsider published a post that went almost completely unnoticed. According to Good, a company that manages multiplatform enterprise mobility solutions,
The iPhone accounted for 61 percent of all enterprise smartphone activations in the third quarter of 2011, retaining the lion’s share despite Android’s growth to 39 percent of smartphones.
Apple’s iPad also showed complete domination of the enterprise tablet market, taking 96 percent of total activations tracked by Good. Android represented just 4 percent of tablet activations for the quarter.
The statistics published by Good don’t include Blackberry and Windows devices which makes these numbers less dramatic that they initially seem. Nonetheless they give a good idea of how far iOS devices have come.
Whoever has the pleasure – or misfortune depending on the point of view – to walk around a multinational open space office will tell you that the number of employees walking around with Apple devices has increased significantly in the recent months.
It’s a big flurry of sales people talking into their iPhones, executives using iPads in their presentations and consultants taking MacBook Pros out of their bags.
Any IT Administrator will confirm this fact. They will tell you of how many support tickets they get every month with requests on how to connect an iPhone to the local Exchange server, print from a Mac and so forth.
It’s a trend that only now is getting steeper and steeper.
The factors behind the trend
This phenomenon is becoming bigger because of four factors:
- Bring Your Own PC (BYOP) policies.
- Self support.
- File and communication standards.
- The availability of solutions like Citrix Receiver.
Let’s briefly analyze each of these points.
In the majority of multinationals’ IT policies have become somehow more lax. Usually strict policies are enforced for PCs because their hard-drive image is centrally managed.
Many other companies have real BYOP policies in place whereas they allow their employees to use whatever hardware they choose.
When it comes to smartphones, the control of IT is even less strict. Unless the company uses Blackberry devices and the Blackberry Enterprise Server that ties employees to a single platform, employees are free to use whatever brand they want. This is where all those big numbers for iOS devices come.
This is somehow linked to the first point. IT policies usually request that if the employees decide to use their own devices, they are also responsible for the support. Not surprising as your own PC/smartphone is usually a non official supported device.
IT is generally OK with it as long as you don’t cause problems on the main infrastructure. A rare event in any case with the protections that exist nowadays.
File and communication standards
Microsoft Exchange, Docx, Xlsx, and so on makes working with an officially supported device or your own Apple device exactly the same thing.
The availability of solutions like Citrix Receiver
This is where a small piece of software, and a great technology behind it, can bridge the gap between Windows applications that are ubiquitous in the enterprise and Apple devices. Provided that those Windows applications are virtualized, by using a solution like Citrix Receiver, an employee can use his/her Mac/iPad/iPhone to work with the existing software.
An IT shift
For the first time in IT Enterprise history we are witnessing a change in who’s making decisions. More and more, the single employees are in control of what device to use.
Because most of them already use Apple computers in their own time, it’s only natural that given the possibility they are going to employ the same device at work.
The reasons why this is happening are quite obvious in my opinion:
- Products used at home are usually newer than the ones provided by IT. The lifecycle replacement time at home is shorter than at work.
- The Apple products you use at home are more efficient and you are more productive.
- They offer a better user experience.
- They are usually faster.
- You don’t need to carry twice as many devices with you.
- The cool factor, for good or bad always to take into account with Apple products.
I can see advantages for everybody when employees are allowed to use their own Apple devices:
- Anybody is happier when they can use whatever computer they want.
- They can always work with up to date equipment.
- They can avail of a wider range of choices than the ones provided by their IT department.
For the employer the advantages are usually concentrated in three areas:
- Happier workforce.
- No additional IT helpdesk resources needed if a self-support policy is in place.
- The IT department can get valuable experience with a new platform at no additional costs if point 2. above is implemented.
There are of course a number of disadvantages. They are mainly in the areas of standardization which is always an issue within any multinational, and the need for specialized helpdesk agents if employees are entitled to support.
Employees willing to work with their Apple machines can either experience glitches because some systems are not optimized for Apple computers or total incompatibilities in the case of software that cannot be streamed from a virtual server.
There are of course many more disadvantages than that but the purpose of this post is to show why Apple devices are becoming more popular in the enterprise not the challenges they face.
Advantages for Apple
I am not sure if Apple’s technical choices and tools that they include with their devices are just an after thought. I believe that Apple is employing a clear strategy to enter the enterprise market leveraging the pressure from the bottom up from their faithful Apple users.
Apple is entering the enterprise market without the hassle usually associated with it. Certifications, regulatory obligations and so on require huge investments in a company that wants to sell to the enterprise market.
Because officially Apple is not in it, it can get all the visibility, and revenue without bearing the costs associated with it.
Broadly speaking, Apple is getting a free ride on the enterprise market. Smart strategy if you ask me. By doing so Apple can gain priceless experience in this class of products without having so sustain the costly investment of enterprise support, management infrastructure and sales.