Apple iPhone 4S

iPhones and iPad apps can build brand awareness, but that doesn’t necessarily signal a rapid move towards Apple-led enterprisesPhoto: Apple

Apple products are beautiful to look at and easy to use. But are iPads, iPhones and the technology specialist’s other user-friendly tools really ready for enterprise deployment? Five CIOs give their opinions on whether Apple technology is really resilient enough for the modern organisation.

Apple tech best suits certain industries

“Enterprises used to drive innovation and that is now definitely not the case,” says Julian Self, group operations and IT director at information specialist IPD, who says people are now entering the workplace with their own devices and their own demands.

“There’s significant pull-through from consumerisation,” says Self. “If strategies to allow workers to buy their own device continue to increase in number, then we will see much more Apple technology in the office. But is it really enterprise-ready?”

Self believes the answer is definitely ‘yes’ for some organisations in specific industries, such as media and marketing.

But while he believes MacBooks have a great reputation, and that iPhones and iPads can be used as channels to create apps that build brand awareness, he is not convinced there will be a rapid move towards a broad range of Apple-led enterprises.

“Our clients don’t really make decisions in the field and, in many businesses, people still need a Windows-led approach,” says Self. “At the same time, attempts by Microsoft to move towards gesture-based computing might have an unexpected effect and show sceptics that other operating systems and techniques, such as those produced by Apple, can work in the business.”

Locations and standards affect the potential for rollout

Sandeep Phanasgaonkar, president and CTO of financial services giant Reliance Capital, says he expects Apple technology to become an enterprise standard but that geographical location really is a key differentiator between success and failure.

He says the iPad will quickly become viewed as an enterprise device in the US and Europe. But in India, where Phanasgaonkar spends most of his time, he believes cost will mean that Android devices are likely to be more common.

“The fact there’s a host of manufacturers that are creating technology at a more attractive price point means we have to cater for high-end customers using Apple technology and everyone else,” says Phanasgaonkar, who believes standards will need to be set before smartphone technology can be considered enterprise-ready.

“Mobile devices can be great if you have a workforce that spends a lot of time in the field. But for productivity workers, tablets are not necessarily the right device. Compatibility issues with Microsoft applications remain an issue for non-PC systems and someone really needs to address those concerns for senior executives,” he says.

The shift to the enterprise is taking place slowly

Apple has certainly been able to benefit from a strong foothold in the consumer market, so it has not always had to prioritise the enterprise customer, says Kaspersky Lab CTO Nikolay Grebennikov.

He gives the example of incoming alerts from Apple and Microsoft for research and development at Kaspersky Lab. Grebennikov estimates that his team receives one email about potential enterprise issues each month from Apple, while the same team expects to receive…

 

…about two on average every day from Microsoft.

“Apple puts most of its effort into consumer-focused technology and they create cool products,” says Grebennikov. “But no company can just concentrate on one area and, as Apple sees the adoption of its products in the enterprise, the focus will start to shift more towards products that are specifically designed for the business user.”

Grebennikov believes the shift in focus is already taking place. He points to specially created application programming interfaces that are being developed to help suppliers, such as Kaspersky, control enterprise issues. However, Grebennikov also believes any full-blown shift will not be quick and suggests Apple will not be truly enterprise-ready for at least three years.

Security considerations should not be taken for granted

Olivier Daloy, CISO at luxury group LVMH, says Apple devices can create unanticipated challenges for the unwary IT leader. Consumers enjoy using the sleek interfaces of iPhones and iPads, yet do not necessarily appreciate that Apple software requires – like any other system – to be carefully handled to avoid the threat posed by modern malware.

“Some people believe malware only exists on Windows-based PCs,” says Daloy. “Individuals are very trusting of devices they have purchased for themselves and are not necessarily aware that other devices can also be compromised in a high-threat environment.”

Daloy says the education process is absolutely crucial, with smart IT leaders prepared to show users how security risks are always present.

“Individuals will try to access the same websites and the same information regardless of device,” says Daloy. “CIOs are going to have to tell users that there are some things you just can’t do, such as clicking on malicious links.”

Businesses must be clear on costs and clearer on objectives

CIOs operating in the cost-conscious business environment are keen to ensure that the value of a technology implementation is realised quickly. And for Adam Banks, CTO at financial services giant Visa Europe, cost must always be a key factor in any type of deployment – including the introduction of Apple devices in the enterprise.

In the short term, he believes most iPad tablets will be user-owned, with business use representing a small portion of overall utilisation. “Possibly the freedom that these devices represent, over a standard work-issued laptop, is part of their attraction,” says Banks.

Almost one in five UK firms already uses tablets in the workplace, according to a recent study of 1,200 IT managers by technology reseller Equanet. But almost three-quarters, some 71 per cent, of tablets used for business purposes are employee-owned, with many users attracted by the perceived cool factor in owning an Apple device.

“Devices are going to evolve and provide more power to more people in more places,” says Banks. “The business needs to assess the benefits of each new device, to ensure it is keeping up with its audience, such as consumers, stakeholders and partners, while avoiding jumping on the latest trends that could be here today and gone tomorrow.”