Apple Making Gains in Enterprise Technology

Microsoft, IBM, Cisco...and Apple? With a slew of recent partnerships, the iOS-maker is taking big strides into the enterprise market.

There's no doubt as to Apple's market dominance when it comes to consumer technology, but yesterday's announcement that it will be partnering with Accenture to create iOS business solutions is another major step in advancing its enterprise technology ambitions.

The two companies will be collaborating on the development of tools and services designed around business use cases for the iPhone and iPad. The announcement promises development of integration services to connect iOS to back-end systems like SAP and Cisco, cutting edge IOT applications and migration services to help businesses transfer applications from legacy systems to iOS apps.

This is a big deal for channel partners, particularly for system integrators and independent software vendors. Apple's iOS has steadily been gaining popularity with enterprise users since its mobile devices became the vehicle of choice for 'shadow IT' applications. New research today from enterprise file sharing software provider Egnyte shows that while Windows still owns 75 percent of business desktop activities, iOS owns a full 82 percent of mobile activities.

While Microsoft still dominates desktop environments, Apple's recent flurry of partnerships, combined with the increase in business conducted on mobile devices, should make it sweat. It was not quite a year ago that Deloitte hopped on the iOS bandwagon to create a new initiative specifically designed to develop business solutions for iOS applications. Deloitte called out the "power, ease-of-use and security" of the iOS platform and promised to develop a multitude of use cases spanning across several industries and functions. The timing of the move presents an almost unprecedented opportunity for Apple, coming at a time when 'digital transformation' is the buzzword on everyone's lips, and businesses are investing heavily in modernizing their IT infrastructure.

“Deloitte began doubling-down on digital transformation around 2010 with the acquisition of a mobile digital agency,” Mike Brinker, Global Digital Leader of Deloitte Digital, told ComputerWorld when the partnership was announced. “Since that time Deloitte Digital has grown to over 10,000 practitioners and we now have over 1 billion iPhones sold. The last five years have been dominated by helping our clients better engage with their customers, while leading organizations have been using mobile iOS devices in the enterprise in limited ways. We believe we are at an inflection point in history, like we were with the Internet in 2002, where the focus is rapidly shifting to transform the enterprise and empowering employees to now work the way they live.”

Apple is leaving no stone unturned in its quest for an enterprise foothold. The company has partnered with IBM for years to develop an applications for a wide range of use cases, from processing insurance claims to managing financial portfolios to providing a comprehensive CRM application for airlines. Many of those applications are integrated with IBM's Watson cognitive capabilities that enable them to use past data to improve future performance--in essence, 'self-learning' to more accurately leverage the data they use.

Its ambitions extend into IT infrastructure. This past June, Apple and Cisco announced a partnership to develop a series of offerings, including the hyped Cisco Security Platform, set to be released this fall. The platform helps enterprises extend the same level of mobile security offered by iOS into all enterprise mobile devices.

While Mac's enterprise market share hovers below 10 percent, the company still markets itself primarily as consumer technology. Microsoft Windows holds a hallowed spot in enterprise operating systems, but when Apple turns its considerable talents toward business technology, Microsoft's dominance may be severely challenged.

Still, the split between desktop and mobile operating systems of choice is good news for partners, who should be busy designing designing stacks with built in interoperability. Apple to date has not developed an enterprise cloud; its iCloud platform is geared heavily toward consumer use. But the company has formed key relationships with the critical players within the enterprise market, with no sign of slowing down.

Who knows? Maybe one day soon we'll see a new partnership between Microsoft and Apple. Stranger things have happened.

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