Apple is selling fewer iPads. Oh, sure, it's still selling a lot of the sleek tablets, just not as many as a year or two ago. Part of this, perhaps, is due to the release of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus a year ago, because they have larger screens. Or maybe the upgrade cycle for tablets isn't as quick as the one for smartphones. Either way, it's not just the iPad that's slipping: the whole tablet market has been moving backwards.
Whatever the reason, Apple is looking well beyond the consumer market to sell more tablets. Much of Apple's partnership with IBM has focused on delivering iPad apps to targeted verticals and to ensure support for enterprise-wide deployments of the tablets.
According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, Apple is working with more than 40 app developers and other companies to further improve the iPad as a business tool.
Apple is said to have invited representatives from third-party companies to train its employees in their apps and other programs so Apple can better sell companies on the iPad. The partnership is said to already be paying dividends, as companies connect their customers with Apple, and Apple connects companies so they can create interconnected apps.
Apple is calling it the "mobility partner program," or MPP, and the company is (as per the norm) keeping much of the program secret, even from participants.
Companies are making apps that handle small business accounting, digital cash registers, employee scheduling software, restaurant apps, and more. The program is even reaching out to small business customers at Apple's retail stores. Capturing business customers at retail stores has been a focus for years, but it seems to be taking on new life. One retail store customer said in the WSJ piece that Apple representatives seemed "genuinely interested in my [four-person] business and in helping me grow."
If Apple can get in on the ground floor with small businesses, they can be well positioned as they grow. According to the WSJ, Apple hopes to package bundles of apps that work well together and sell them to targeted verticals.
For business owners, the goal is to make the technology simpler and more transparent, much like many consumers do with Apple's devices. One business owner said they could focus on the strategy of running their business rather than worrying about the technology.
By leveraging Apple's traditional ease of use into the business market, the company could increase sales by offering a complete package like they do for consumers. Apple's productivity suite (Pages, Numbers, and Keynote), plus it's lifestyle apps like Photos, iMovie, and GarageBand are included free both on OS X and iOS devices. It's likely that Apple is looking to offer business- or vertical-focused app suites to customers for reasonable prices as well, especially since anything that can save business owners time will likely also save them money, which they can then use to buy more Apple products.
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Jordan Golson is an Apple Columnist for TechRepublic. He also writes about technology and automobiles for WIRED and MacRumors. He has worked for Apple Retail twice and has been writing about technology since 2007.