Tim Cook Is Cozying Apple Up With Big Business

Tim Cook Is Cozying Apple Up With Big Business

Photo by lemagit - http://flic.kr/p/5SFWHN

After a rather thorny relationship with the corporate class, Apple is getting downright chummy with businesses buying thousands of iPhones and iPads. The Cupertino, Calif. company now has access to the boardrooms co-founder Steve Jobs once rejected.

That newfound friendliness is present when Apple talks to the financial press. No longer does the company focus only on its consumer successes, but now includes its forays into business. Apple execs now mention its iPads and iPhones are used in up to 93 percent of Fortune 500 companies. That’s a change from the past, when IT departments regularly dissed the Apple brand in favor of Windows PCs and BlackBerry phones.

“The reason why is they struggled for decades, and finally they [Apple] have a story to tell in the enterprise,” Piper Jaffray’s Apple watcher Gene Munster tells the New York Times.

The new story of Apple in enterprise comes complete with some huge examples. Home improvement chain Lowe’s just bought 42,000 iPhones for its employees to more quickly help customers. The newly-merged United and Continental Airlines handed out 11,000 iPads to their pilots, replacing flight manuals, navigation charts and other, once printed information. Some 5,000 Siemens Energy technicians will get iPads to replace bulky laptops to search for information while dangling hundreds of feet working on wind turbines.

But the improved business relationship extends beyond hardware sales. There is a new sense of acceptance, coming both from Apple and palpably felt by enterprises. The Times tells of a 2007 meeting Jobs had with “the head of the health care division of a major conglomerate.” Upon a request that Apple add a few corporate-friendly features to the iPhone, Jobs scoffed at the idea. The then-CEO of Apple told the executive sales of the business-centric BlackBerry were overshadowed by the overall number of cell phones sold.

“Which market would you build for?” the newspaper quotes Jobs, citing an unnamed former Apple worker. Current Apple CEO Tim Cook has always understood the needs of business, even while he was the Chief Operating Officer.

Although iPads and iPhones are making it into the office many times through the back door, and despite the current official endorsement of the Apple brand, there is one sticking point left: the IT department. It seems corporate IT loves to know where a technology company is headed with its products, in order to better plan. Apple’s lack of details and downright secretive nature isn’t likely to change.

Some things change, but others stay the same with Apple, which has always valued its image as an outsider and rebel. Despite the cozier relationship with business, Jobs would probably approve of the current course Cook is taking Apple.

  • Shaunathan Sprocket

    As someone who works in one of the IT deparments Ed talks about, our biggest problem is we just spent $455,000.00 on windows licencing just about 2 years ago.   It’s hard to tell upper management “forget that cost! we need $350,000.00 in new macs!”.

  • George Wedding

    I’ve also noticed that during the past few weeks, Apple’s been more quick to issue public statements about iOS bugs and the fixes that are in the works.

  • Captain Snicklefret

    That is known as sunk cost and most likely amortized over thee years. You can show benefit by how much of IT you can ditch to pay for the macs.

  • Joe

    It is nonsense that IT needs advance notice of *unreleased* products to plan.  Jobs has the right approach.  Selling to CEOs is what sunk Microsoft because when users get a choice they don’t want what the accounting department wants for them.  Selling to the consumer is here to stay.  Corporate IT is caving all over the nation because users are reminding them who pays their salary, and they can easily see that IT tends to be political.  Bet against users at your peril.  As a group they know what they need better than the average IT department, unfortunately.  This is a revolution similar to how IT got dragged kicking and screaming into the PC world in the first place, always ranting about their limited capabilities as opposed to the mainframe and dumb terminals?  Guess who won that round?  Users.  And so it will be with this round.  Deal with it.

  • bbrewer

    You are paying more for the pathetic Windows license than you are willing to spend on Macs though.    This is software that MSFT practically gives away in China, etc…   I bet you parrot how affordable Windows is to everyone, too. Haha. Study after study has shown that Macs are no more expensive in the long term. Much cheaper if you factor in all the purposefully built-in IT costs.

    The Macs are a good investment.    WIndows?   Did you have to force people to upgrade, or what?   Most users, given any input, would probably rather stay in Win XP.   They have seen what qualifies as an ‘upgrade’ from MSFT too many times already.

    We all know that IT is in MSFT’s pocket.   Duh.

  • CharliK

    The real story is that Apple hasn’t changed a darn thing other than putting in built in Exchange support and WPA2 level wifi security in iOS to make their stuff ‘business friendly’ and yet businesses are jumping, as they were before those add ons. Same with Macs, Mac OS X etc. 

    Apple is proving that you don’t have to design just for businesses for your stuff to be business machines. 

  • CharliK

    You can try. But some upper management just doesn’t get it. All they see is that the money is already spent. So the best you can do is start preparing your research etc for the next time the licensing etc has to be re-upped and hopefully you can prove to them that Solution Y is better than sticking with Solution X. 

    My partner had this exact issue about 2 years ago and now he’s going to be able to make the case for switching. What’s amusing is that part of his argument (and it might be the best part) is the PR factor. The company he works for is on a big campaign to appeal to the younger audience (fresh out of college etc) and being able to say “lets face it, these kids are all about the iPhone, iPad etc. To them, Apple is ‘the times’. If we are bringing them in and telling them they have to work on Windows computers and carry around Blackberry phones they will say thanks for the meeting but no way”. This one argument might actually be more effective than the whole “support is literally a mile away”, “less viruses to deal with” etc. 

About the author

Ed SutherlandEd Sutherland is a veteran technology journalist who first heard of Apple when they grew on trees, Yahoo was run out of a Stanford dorm and Google was an unknown upstart. Since then, Sutherland has covered the whole technology landscape, concentrating on tracking the trends and figuring out the finances of large (and small) technology companies.

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