Role reversal: Apple's the corporate standard for mobile

Neither Apple nor IT was looking for the iPhone to be the standard business smartphone, yet that's exactly what it's become

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Even here, Apple has quietly gone corporate enough to eliminate the objection. For a small fee, any business can join Apple's developer program, giving it several months' head start on new versions of iOS (and Mac OS X), though not on new devices. The company has worked with multiple consulting firms such as Unisys to provide the enterprise support that Apple doesn't want to or can't deliver itself.

Apple does offer basic business help on its website, and it has a business app store that addresses basic issues of bulk purchases and license management, though not more sophisticated situations such as those involving contractor and customer distribution. It now also has business specialists in some of its Apple Stores. In addition, Apple has quietly approached hundreds of companies and government agencies to pitch the iPad as a corporate device and gather feedback as to what businesses want from it (and the iPhone). It's actively listening to corporate needs, even if it doesn't tip its hand or act as if it cares.

Where does this lead? Apple, I have no doubt, will continue to eschew any public image of catering to corporate needs as more than incidental to broad individual use. In other words, it will act as if it's enabling iPhones and iPads to satisfy the needs of individuals who also want to use them at work, not to satisfy the needs of businesses per se.

You can thank the late Steve Jobs for that approach; he saw Apple badly fumble its attempt to compete with Windows in the corporate sphere in the 1990s, after he had been fired from Apple, and he was adamant about not going there again. Of course, Jobs also saw what was happening on the ground, and he quietly changed the iPhone and iPad from being consumer-only devices to being consumer-centric devices that could work in the business sphere. That wasn't as much of an about-face as his 2007 proclamation that the iPhone didn't need apps but could do everything from the Web, only to introduce the App Store in 2008 and proclaim apps as a key iOS advantage over Web apps. However, it shows Apple will adjust its strategy even if it doesn't acknowledge the shift.

With Jobs gone, Apple may be more visibly open to corporate support, but it will remain on Apple's terms. IT is in a position of having Apple products as a key part of the corporate portfolio, but maintaining an arm's-length relationship with Apple itself.

I'm convinced IT will get over it. On a day-to-day basis, IT doesn't have much to do with individual iPhones and iPads; IT's focus is on using Exchange and mobile device management (MDM) tools, on ensuring appropriate permissions for data that might end up on an iOS device, and on reworking network and other resources to support the change in information access from fixed PC terminals to a range of mobile devices led by the iPhone and iPad.

Frankly, Apple's rise as the corporate mobile technology standard is a good thing for IT, as it will help in the transition to the post-PC or "consumerization of IT" world that is emerging, where IT is a key part of the technology management fabric but not the entire fabric itself.

This article, "Role reversal: Apple's the corporate standard for mobile," was originally published at Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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