Apple's iPhone, Mac Seeing Higher Sales to Business

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print

Apple's iPhone is not the only Apple technology that is gaining traction in business. Apple's Mac notebooks, desktops and server sales to both small business and enterprise work groups have grown. And more third-party technology that supports the Mac platform is now available too -- from servers to storage to virtualization to e-mail.

Apple has never been known for its strong reseller channel partner program or its efforts to woo the channel with discounts and back-end rebates. But over the years as Apple’s Mac platform has made inroads into small businesses and workgroups within larger enterprises, the channel has come along for the ride, with or without Apple’s support.

Now a new subculture has formed—solution providers and third-party vendors that create solutions for businesses on the Apple Mac platform. From servers to storage to virtualization to e-mail, if there’s a technology available for the PC, chances are there’s a comparable technology available for the Mac, often at a lower price.

That and a host of other factors have contributed to Apple’s recent success in the business market. While Apple doesn’t break out its sales by end markets, those who sell to business say that Apple sales have been increasing. Business is pursuing Apple solutions.

For example, SAAS (software-as-a-service) enterprise application provider Salesforce.com reports that its iPhone mobile client for Salesforce.com has been downloaded 80,000 times—that’s 80,000 different iPhones—since it was added to Apple’s App Store on July 11, 2008.

Apple reports that its iPhone has been implemented by enterprise IT at Kraft Foods. Nike and Walt Disney have said they will support the iPhone. And Genentech has said it will deploy 3,000 of the devices to employees.

Another proof in point: IT distributor Tech Data’s recent launch of an Apple Lab within its own solutions demonstration center, designed to allow resellers to demonstrate all kinds of Apple-based technology solutions to business customers. Tech Data declined to say whether Apple was providing any financial support for the effort, but did say that Apple representatives will be participating in Tech Data’s expanded Apple solutions summits this year. In previous years, Tech Data offered just one summit dedicated to Apple. This year it is offering three, with an option to add a fourth.

Tech Data Vice President Brian Davis says the distributor has seen an increase in sales of Apple computers, including the MacBook and iMac, both year over year and quarter over quarter, in spite of a deep recession and sharp declines in sales of other kinds of personal computers.

And while Davis acknowledges that Tech Data does sell to many a retail storefront that in turn sells Macs to consumers, there’s also been a sharp increase in business interest in Apple platforms, he says. Davis believes the popularity of the iPhone and business applications for the iPhone, coupled with a host of third-party solutions for business that work with Apple’s platforms, is contributing to the success story.

Angela O’Donnell, owner of W. O’Donnell Consulting, says she has also noticed a higher rate of adoption of Apple products in the general business community.

An Apple specialist, O’Donnell says now that Macs can run the Windows OS as well as the Mac OS, it’s easier for Macs to make inroads. That’s because the machines can now run the full range of software applications rather than just those that support the Mac OS. And the Mac platform has also shaken an old stigma, according to O’Donnell.

"Traditionally, IT departments were hesitant to allow Macs into the enterprise," she says. "They were looked at as a security risk. That’s not really the case anymore."  

These days Macs are often considered less of a security risk than their PC counterparts. Strong advertising campaigns by Apple have contributed to rehabilitating the platform’s image with enterprise IT, she says.

Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com