iPad for business? Just ten years ago the idea of a significant Apple computer presence in the enterprise would have been scoffed at and quickly brushed aside, but those days seem to be ending. More and more, employees are bringing their iPhones to work, requesting to work with Mac instead of Windows computers, and that is translating to more requests for the iPad as well.
It’s a trend that took even Apple CEO Steve Jobs by surprise.
"We're already seeing tremendous interest in iPad from education, and much to my surprise, from business," he told financial analysts during Apple’s most recent earnings call. "We haven't pushed it real hard in business, and it's being grabbed out of our hands."
And to that end, Apple seems to be working to recruit Apple systems integrators. Milestone Technology, a Fremont, Calif.-based systems integrator is a case in point. The 800-person SI was contacted by Apple about a year ago and started in as an authorized reseller, service provider and systems integrator about six months ago, according to Jay Yu, vice president of technology at Milestone responsible for the Apple relationship. Milestone is one of about four SIs currently authorized by Apple, Yu said.
"The primary focus for us is about establishing parity in the enterprise between Mac and Windows," Yu told Channel Insider, adding that Milestone is also a Microsoft partner.
It marks a sea change for the industry as the established client platform, Windows, is being pushed to the side of the desk to make room for Apple’s Mac. Yu reports that many of his client companies have changed the way they think about Apple platforms.
"They’ve shifted from thinking of Apple as a one-off product or project to thinking about how to make Apple platforms a regular part of their operating budget," he said. "That signals a significant shift in how companies are thinking about it. They are asking themselves, how do we make it part of our regular infrastructure."
Currently, Milestone is involved in about six engagements for Apple platform integration and is in talks with another 20 to 25 companies about Apple integration. Apple has provided some leads to Milestone, and Milestone is also marketing the solutions to its existing customer base.
Milestone points out that half of Fortune 500 companies are currently looking to implement Apple platforms in the enterprise. Why the interest now?
"There are a growing number of people coming out of college that have used the Mac and are comfortable with it," Yu told Channel Insider. "They feel empowered to ask to continue to use it in the workplace. There have been a lot of technology advances in the product side to integrate Macs with Windows environments." Plus, Apple platforms require less management and are not as susceptible to viruses, he added.
Indeed, in Silicon Valley where Milestone is based platform choice is being used as a recruiting tool to entice employees to accept job offers, Yu said.
"I think that’s really fascinating," he said. They are offering the use of a Mac "to retain and recruit employees as opposed to the more regular HR focus on benefits and salaries."
The growing momentum of cloud computing and desktop virtualization is making it easier for companies to allow users to choose the platform they want rather than a standard company issue, said Yu. Instead of creating applications that must run on both Mac and Windows platforms, developers can write once and deliver to each client via the cloud.
Use of the iPad in enterprises naturally follows the iPhone’s momentum there, said Yu, since the infrastructure is already in place to support the iPhone. iPad is frequently used by executives as a laptop replacement because it’s easier to carry around, it has instant on capabilities and it’s easy to use.
But vertical industries are also adapting the platform to serve their own particular use cases, such as medical practices for electronic medical records, and retailers are looking at the devices as an interactive tool at the customer interface level, said Yu. Industries have taken up the iPad and created new uses for the device.
Right now, the iPad’s momentum in business seems to have a life of its own.
"I talk to people everyday in all kinds of businesses that are using iPads, all the way from boards of directors that are shipping iPads around instead of board books, down to nurses and doctors in hospitals and other large and small businesses," Steve Jobs told the financial analysts.
"So the more time that passes, the more I am convinced that we've got a tiger by the tail here. And this is a new model of computing which we've already got tens of millions of people trained on with the iPhone. And that lends itself to lots of different aspects of life both personal, educational and business."