Apple ‘winning’ the enterprise: What it means, and what it doesn’t

Apple’s iOS appears to be gaining favor in the enterprise, according to data IDC and the mobile app platform provider Appcelerator released this week. The survey of more than 3,600 mobile developers found that 53 percent of respondents predicted iOS will “win” the enterprise, while only 37.5 percent said Android will become the dominant mobile enterprise platform.
That survey – which is the largest so far in a series from Appcelerator – indicates developers have been paying attention as Apple has quietly made its way into the corporate world. Good Technology, which provides push e-mail and mobile device management for multiple smartphone platforms (but not BlackBerry OS) reported that the iPhone 4S alone accounted for 37 percent of its activations in the first quarter of 2012, and five other iOS devices each saw more activations than Good’s most-activated Android gadget, the Motorola Droid. Overall, Android accounted for only 26.1 percent of Good’s smartphone activations, and a tiny 2.7 percent of its tablet activations. A Forrester report earlier this year highlighted Apple’s growing presence in the mobile enterprise, finding that 55 percent of IT decision makers in Western Europe and North America support the iPhone – up from 37 percent just a year earlier – and 58 percent saying they either support the iPad currently or are interested in doing so.
Filling a the vacuum left by RIM
Meanwhile, Research In Motion continues to watch its market share melt like an ice sculpture at a July wedding. The once-dominant platform ran on just 6.4 percent of the smartphones shipped worldwide in the first quarter of 2012, according to IDC, down dramatically from 13.6 percent during the same period in 2011. That share is likely to drop below 5 percent – perhaps far below 5 percent – before RIM finally trots out the BlackBerry 10 OS sometime early next year.
That implosion has created a vacuum in the mobile enterprise that is slowly being filled by Apple, and no other operating system is making much of a dent. Android continues to be plagued by fragmentation problems that prevent IT departments from fully embracing it, and the threat of malware in the world’s most popular mobile platform is higher than ever. And while Microsoft would appear to have a substantial edge in the mobile enterprise – Windows Phone 8 looks to be a world-class OS that will integrate with the Microsoft Office software so many of us use every day – Redmond still has yet to gain any real traction. Even the Nokia Lumia 900, which came to market with heavy promotional support and a budget-friendly price tag, has failed to move the needle.
And Apple continues its frontal assault on the market that RIM once dominated: No tablet has done much to slow the iPad’s growing popularity among both consumers and business users, and the upcoming iOS 6 will offer more enterprise-friendly features this fall. Apple’s mobile platform will become even more appealing to business users and IT departments if Microsoft actually releases a version of its ubiquitous Office suite for iOS, as has long been rumored.
Apple may win, but others will survive
Despite all the overheated bloviating about “winning the enterprise,” though, we won’t see any single platform become the standard in the mobile enterprise – at least not in the near future. While Apple may be the device of choice for the front-office types who can dictate company policy, iOS simply doesn’t play well enough with other systems to gain the full support of many IT decision makers. Android, meanwhile, has the sheer mass-market consumer adoption to force its way into most businesses in this era of BYOD (bring your own device). And although Windows Phone remains something of an afterthought in today’s mobile market, it has the technical prowess and big-money backing to catch flight quickly, especially if Windows 8 and the Surface tablet gain traction.
Apple’s emergence as the dominant mobile platform in the enterprise could signal the end of Microsoft’s hopes of Windows Phone ever becoming a major player, and it would certainly slow Android’s momentum in many markets. But in the new world of BYOD, the message for IT departments and app developers is simple: Apple may be well positioned to take RIM’s crown as king of the corporate mobile world, but you’ll still have to support multiple operating systems for the foreseeable future.

Question of the week

Will any mobile operating system dominate the enterprise the way BlackBerry did?