Channel Insider content and product recommendations are editorially independent. We may make money when you click on links to our partners. Learn More.

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 reports that its iPhone mobile client for 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.