Apple will need more than gadgets to appeal to enterprise

by Matt Klassen on October 23, 2015

There’s no question that over the last year or so Apple has become a lot more serious about being an effective mobile solution for the business market, creating partnerships with the likes of IBM and Cisco to bolster its enterprise presence and help create an ethos of productivity around hardware that has traditionally been seen as anything but.

The ironic thing is that even as Apple attempts to bridge the gap between consumer gadgets and enterprise functionality, the vast consumerization of technology has seemingly done much of the heavy lifting already, as the attraction of Apple’s gadgets prompted the entire BYOD movement, as people clamoured for ways to use their favourite personal devices at work as well.

But despite Apple’s enterprise infiltration and its attempts to appeal to the business world in general, it will take more than flashy gadgets, Apple branded business apps, and even more than IBM or Cisco to appeal to enterprise, it will take a radical rethink of its entire corporate philosophy to truly appeal to business customers, and I happen to think that despite CEO Tim Cook’s assurances that selling to businesses is “not a hobby,” that the company will soon lose interest when they find out what it really takes to become a staple in enterprise IT.

Last month Cook revealed that Apple’s push into enterprise had already generated $25 billion in the last year, a big number, to be sure, but one that is dwarfed by the company’s overall revenues of $224 billion. That means that enterprise sales account for only 11% of the company’s revenues, a relatively meagre slice of the pie.

Now Cook has insisted that his company is committed to improving its enterprise presence, and that selling to businesses is more than just a side project, but the fact of the matter is that the company may soon find, as ZDNet’s Steve Ranger writes, “budget-focused executives harder to win over than consumers entranced by elegant gadgets.”

First, as market analysis firm Gartner noted recently, Apple’s penchant for secrecy really does not play well in the business world, as enterprise clients want to know how products will develop, and how future iterations will interact with current models. “Expecting product roadmaps is counter to Apple’s culture,” says Gartner; “The Apple model continues to frustrate enterprises wanting to plan product transitions.”

To counter this, Apple would have to stop acting like a mobile supplier, and more like a partner to its clients, giving corporate CIOs the same kind of experience they get from other suppliers; that, or Apple will need to convince the business world that doing things Apple’s way is really worth it.

Second, and possibly the greatest prohibitive factor to Apple’s success as a true mobile business supplier, is the Cupertino company’s rigid pricing structure, particularly when talking about large scale enterprise roll-outs. As Gartner notes, “Apple’s pricing policies continue to support minimal discounting to enterprises…Enterprises expecting significant large-order discounts from Apple will continue to be disappointed.” This is a problem, as Ranger explains, because “Apple has consistently focused on the premium market, but that doesn’t work so well for businesses where not all users are equal, or need equally complex feature sets.” This one-size-fits-all approach may have worked in the consumer market, but it definitely won’t work across the gamut of enterprise clients.

Finally, as Ranger writes, perhaps the greatest challenge for Apple to succeed in the enterprise space will be retaining what makes it Apple in the first place, that simplicity and elegance that attracted the masses in the first place. In fact, I would guess that it would be those very things that inhibit Apple’s business growth, as the company will soon get fed up with trying to meet the ever-changing needs of the business world, opting instead to continue dictating those needs to the consumer market.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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