Yesterday I published my review of the Apple iPhone 4 from an enterprise perspective, and noted that 40% of iPhone sales are now made to businesses and that some prominent Fortune 500 companies such as UBS are getting serious with the iPhone.
So does that mean Apple is finally starting to warm up to the enterprise, after years of neglect and even disdain for the enterprise market? There are conflicting signals from Apple on this subject, including mixed messages from Apple CEO Steve Jobs himself.
On the one hand, Jobs made a point of emphasizing the iPhone 4's enhanced enterprise capabilities during his keynote presentation on the iPhone 4 at WWDC 2010 (photo below). Also, Apple now has a small sales force dedicated entirely to enterprise customers, especially those who want deploy the iPhone.
On the other hand, we have the words of Jobs in his recent interview with Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher of The Wall Street Journal (photo below). Jobs said:
"What I love about the consumer market, that I always hated about the enterprise market, is that we come up with a product, we try to tell everybody about it, and every person votes for themselves. They go 'yes' or 'no,' and if enough of them say 'yes,' we get to come to work tomorrow. That's how it works. It's really simple. With the enterprise market, it's not so simple. The people that use the products don't decide for themselves, and the people that make those decisions sometimes are confused. We love just trying to make the best products in the world for people and having them tell us by how they vote with their wallets whether we're on track or not."
Judging by that statement, I doubt we'll see Apple cozying up to the enterprise very much in the near future and IT leaders should be very clear about that. Apple is likely to throw a few bones to the enterprise to make the iPhone palatable to the powers that be in the corporate IT world. However, do not expect Apple to do what RIM has done over the past decade, which is to cultivate its product (BlackBerry) to the wants and needs of CIOs.
Still, according to Forrester, 29% of corporate IT department now support the iPhone in 2010, up from 17% in 2009. That's nowhere near the 70% that support BlackBerry, but the iPhone is clearly generating significant momentum in businesses.
This momentum is often driven from the top-down by executives. The other driving factor is the consumerization of IT, in which many workers are bringing their own technologies into the workplace -- including laptops, smartphones, and Web apps. This is the wave that Apple is riding, and Jobs appears to be making a bet that it will continue in the future, so he is staking Apple's enterprise play on individual consumers driving demand for Apple products and IT departments reacting to it. Apple simply wants to take away the security and manageability obstacles that keep IT from saying, "No." In other words, don't look for Apple to start aggressively courting the enterprise any time soon.
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Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the upcoming book, Follow the Geeks (bit.ly/ftgeeks).