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.