Apple iPhone wins enterprise, is Microsoft relevant?

November 29, 2011 6:16 AM EST

Fueled by the iPhone and iPad, Apple [AAPL] is in the enterprise -- most recently becoming mobile device vendor of choice for one of Microsoft's oldest enterprise allies, Lifetime Products.

[ABOVE: Lifetime Products even offers an iPhone app.]

Once in a Lifetime

There was a time when Microsoft would turn to Lifetime in order to show the relevance and success of its products in the mid-sized enterprise segment.

How things change, just listen to Lifetime CIO, John Bowden, who tells CIO.com: "We love Apple. The bottom line is that Apple makes great products."

With over ten thousand employees, Lifetime cannot be seen as a small company with a lackadaisical approach to its IT purchasing decisions. On-site computers use a virtual desktop in order to protect data, USB ports are disabled and there's digital rights management systems and protocols to protect the firm's secrets -- it has suffered intellectual property thefts in the past, the report explains.

A long time Microsoft devotee, the company moved to adopt iPhones and iPads for its mobile solutions.

Why? Because so many of Microsoft's employees use these devices, even if they don't tell company boss, Steve Ballmer.

[ABOVE: Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer, talks about iPad. Who feels inspired?]

Get ready for the 'iEnterprise'

A good story? A one-off? I think it is a sign of the times. That's because it isn't just this one company that's putting Apple's mobile solutions through their paces -- huge swathes of the corporate world are now deploying iPhones and iPads. Some in response to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) culture, others as part of a corporate deployment.

It isn't as if we haven't seen this coming. Apple has been keen to ensure its iOS devices are suitable for enterprise users. The company even licensed Microsoft's widely-deployed Exchange ActiveSync technology to underpin its enterprise bid.

Peter Oppenheimer, Apple CFO speaking in October said: "93 percent of the Fortune 500 deploying or testing the device [iPhone], up from 91 percent last quarter and 60 percent of the Global 500 testing or deploying iPhone, up from 57 percent last quarter."

He also revealed that 92 percent of the Fortune 500 are testing or deploying iPad within their enterprises, up from 86 percent last year.

[ABOVE: Fly boys -- United Continental replace flight manuals with iPads.]

The Apple drops

For example, Lowe's is in the process of deploying over 40,000 iPhones all equipped with an app that will let store staff check inventories, product orders and share how-to videos with customers.

Big firms are buying into the iOS vision: L'Oreal, Royal Bank of Scotland, SAP, Texas Instruments, Jacobs Engineering Group, Tenet Healthcare, Jaguar Land Rover, Takeda Pharmaceuticals, Lincoln National and CSX Corporation, to name a few.

There's some interesting uses being made:

  • Medical device manufacturer Boston Scientific has distributed about 3,000 iPads to its field sales people and expects to buy 1,500 more by the end of the year.
  • United Continental uses iPads to replace heavy, paper-based flight bags.
  • All Nippon Airways use iPads in training programs for flight attendants.
  • Sonic Automotive is using iPad for customer check-in and analytics.
  • General Mills has developed internal apps that their field sales teams leverage daily
  • Siemens Energy use iPads when they do maintenance work at the top of their wind turbines.

This is a disruptive moment. The customarily conservative enterprise markets are melting, rather like the ice caps, flowing to favor solutions from the dominant platform provider of our day -- Apple.

Once you go Mac you don't look back

Forrester in October amazed us when it advised us to embrace the Mac: "Time is the only thing that these fierce competitors can't make more of. Many of today's corporate PCs are saddled with management, backup, and security agents that can bog down a PC. Employees want their PCs to boot in 10 seconds, not 10 minutes, and they don't want to have to get a cup of coffee while opening a 20 MB spreadsheet in Excel. They're drawn to uncluttered Macs -- especially those with solid-state drives, which are more responsive and boot in seconds," said analyst David Johnson.

This is driving a resurgence of interest among enterprise users in Apple's Mac platforms. Square Group chief, Darren King, notes, "Total cost of ownership (TCO) for a Mac vs a comparable Wintel device over 3-4 years is actually lower!"

Combined, the market share of Macs and iPads will make Apple a bigger PC solutions provider than HP next year, recent data claims.

With deployment comes interest in creating enterprise solutions for Apple's platforms. RIM -- well aware of its declining importance -- has moved to begin offering mobile management software called Blackberry Mobile Fusion, which is compatible with iPhones.

Supporting tech support

Mobile device management in all its forms seems set to become another competitive market. CenterBeam yesterday announced a hosted endpoint management and security solution for Apple products. These solutions are intended to help IT departments answer the 'challenge' of supporting Apple's pretty much malware free devices on their corporate nets.

"The exploding popularity of the Mac, iPhone and iPad is driving Apple technology deeper into the enterprise as power users and executives rely on the devices to enhance productivity," said Shahin Pirooz, CTO of CenterBeam.

"But the introduction of new technology is pressuring CIOs to broaden the scope of devices that their IT department supports at a time when resources are already stretched."

Will Android dent the corporate markets? This doesn't seem likely right now, especially when it comes to tablets, where Creative Strategies analyst, Tim Bajarin, warns: "Android for tablets may never realize its full potential."

Microsoft meanwhile is looking to ensure there's a place for its software whatever the dominant platforms may become. The company this morning announced a plan to license the protocols for many of its enterprise systems to a company that will develop compatible applications for non-Microsoft mobile operating systems, including Google's Android and Apple's iOS.

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