Perhaps. But Apple's enterprise strategy is still immature, IT executives say. "They're most interested in selling product and not in adapting how they do business to meet the needs of the enterprise," says a vice president of IT at a Fortune 100 company that uses both Apple mobile and desktop products, who declined to be identified.
Mum's the word
Apple's legendary secrecy -- its unwillingness to share its product road map, even under nondisclosure agreements -- makes Andy Wang's job harder. Wang is an enterprise architect at Genentech. "Part of my job is to plan 12 to 36 months out. When you don't get anything from Apple, that makes for challenging planning," he says. IT executives regularly receive such briefings from vendors like Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard.
"With HP, we know what's coming out six to 12 months from now. With Apple, you don't have a clue," says Michael Kamer, manager of technology integration services at St. Luke's Health System, a healthcare provider in the Kansas City, Mo., area that's testing a system that would let doctors access clinical apps from their own iPads.
"We're guessing which capabilities will be available when," adds Greg Schwartz, senior vice president and CIO at USAA. After the iPad 2 was released, USAA began work on a new version of an online banking app that lets iPad 2 users photograph and submit checks for deposit using the built-in camera. "We didn't know when the iPad 2 was going to be released. Otherwise, we would have had it ready," he says.
Apple's consumer-focused approach to product licensing and support also creates headaches. Although Genentech has developed its own iPhone apps and delivers them through an internal app store, it still must renew its certification for those applications with Apple every year. "That's very tedious," says enterprise architect David Lee. "We have a cordial and collaborative relationship, but enterprises are treated more like consumers."
Apple also lacks a corporate account model that enterprise customers can use to centrally manage the acquisition of software from its Mac App Store. Instead, each purchase is tied to an iTunes account, which in turn is tied to an individual and that person's email address, rather than to a role or physical device. (Apple does have a corporate purchasing system for iOS apps, which it debuted in July for U.S. customers.)
"The enterprise has fundamental issues here. You don't want to have an individual account per device for the licensing and management of apps," says Mark White, CTO of Deloitte Consulting's technology practice.
But for now, that's exactly what many businesses do.
Other businesses have negotiated directly with software vendors, bypassing the iTunes store. "It's not a generally solved problem yet," says White -- for any of the mobile vendors.
Enterprise-class security is another concern. At St. Luke's, protecting data on iOS devices is a big issue. Kamer says the iPad doesn't natively support the FIPS 140-2 encryption standard, so he has to work around that. "That's one reason why we don't allow them on our internal network," he says.
Management tools: A big obstacle
Unlike Microsoft, Apple doesn't offer a suite of management tools for its products, relying instead on third-party vendors and integrators to pull together a framework for securing and managing Apple devices at the enterprise level.
"Many of the Mac-based tools are built by small or lesser-known third-party ISVs, and many of those are smaller, point-type solutions, which may not scale in an enterprise setting," says ITIC analyst DiDio.