August 20, 2015 at 5:00 am ET
A Continuing Partnership
Over the course of the past decade, Apple has come to epitomize the consumer side of technology, from the iconic iPhone to the Mac, which has made significant progress against the once-ubiquitous PC. In the enterprise, however, Microsoft’s legacy as the de facto OS for business remains a significant barrier that Apple continues to chip away at by virtue of its massive consumer appeal. Under CEO Tim Cook’s stewardship, there has been a notable shift to prioritizing the OS enterprise – take, for example, the partnership with onetime rival IBM in July of last year. Following the acquisition of EMM vendor Fiberlink, IBM has continued to enhance its enterprise mobility portfolio. Since announcing its partnership with Apple, the firm has been able to develop strategic and vertical-specific mobile applications for its clients while continuing to pursue its unified endpoint management initiatives by becoming more expert in managing both Apple’s mobile OS (iOS) and desktop OS (OS X).
Capitalizing on an increasingly Apple-friendly work environment
At face value, Apple’s products appear to be designed with the consumer squarely in mind, rather than the enterprise. However, with each successive OS update, key security and IT-friendly administration features continue to improve the company’s security posture, and have led to the expanded use of Apple products in business settings. In fact, IBM has been deploying iPads to its sales force since 2014, and has seen the number of Apple devices (iPads, MacBooks and iPhones) under management expand to 110,000 through the Mac@IBM program. The company expects the number of internal MacBook deployments to grow and is taking what it has learned from the experience to the enterprise market. Through its Mac at Work service offering, IBM will begin to support large scale Mac deployments as a managed service. (The company had been providing this service on a custom-basis for some time, but only recently extended the offering to all companies as a standardized service.) While PCs will remain dominant in the enterprise space for the foreseeable future, IBM recognizes that Macs are gaining traction in the enterprise, particularly among those now entering the workforce. As a result, not only will the demand for Macs in the enterprise grow, but tools to ease the process of deployment and management will be required. IBM has wisely partnered with JAMF Software for its Mac at Work offering, as JAMF’s Casper Suite is a widely used solution automating the deployment and configuration of OS X and iOS devices.
The Enterprise is Microsoft’s to Lose
IBM’s partnership could help Apple increase its presence in the enterprise beyond the mobile space to become a truly viable business OS. However, the recent release of Windows 10 could sap some of Apple’s momentum, since Microsoft’s next-generation OS has the potential to shore up its PC business while expanding its mobile presence. Beyond bringing back the Start button, the new OS allows applications to run seamlessly on all Windows devices, a capability that Apple has still not incorporated despite the similarity of iOS and OS X. The benefits of such compatibility from an enterprise perspective remain fairly ambiguous, as PCs tend to be used in a more isolated manner. However, the move could make mobile devices (especially tablets, given their larger screen size) more capable of handling business tasks. Furthermore, both Windows 10 and the growing role of Macs in the enterprise have implications for the endpoint management market tasked with managing the growing number of heterogeneous devices and operating systems used in businesses today.
The fact that IBM and Apple continue to expand their partnership is notable, and it places considerable pressure on Microsoft to evolve its enterprise mobility strategy – particularly its unified endpoint management products (SCCM and Intune) and Visual Studio tools for mobile application development tools. As the divide between consumer and enterprise becomes less and less distinct, the power of partnerships like that of IBM and Apple grow in significance. The days of Microsoft as the lone enterprise juggernaut are over, and the market – both partners and competition alike – is taking notice.
Kathryn Nassberg is an analyst at VDC Research. Matthew Hopkins is a research associate for VDC.