Apple quietly became a key enterprise provider

The No. 1 top sleeper tech story of 2010

You won't find many businesses with a more complex, security-conscious environment than JPMorgan Chase. So when the huge bank decided to deploy iPads in its investment-banking arm -- following similar moves by Crédit Suisse and Citigroup -- it was more than just a straw in the wind. Apple, long rooted in education, creative endeavors, and (more recently) consumer electronics, is now an enterprise company.

The most obvious trend driving the company's shift, of course, is its smashing success in consumer-oriented electronics. Because so many businesspeople use iPhones and now iPads, IT departments have been forced to accommodate them at work. And despite early concerns for security, few, if any, major business breaches have been blamed on those devices.

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"Enterprises have become more consumer-centric. Simplicity and elegance sell; complexity doesn't," says analyst Trip Chowdhry of Global Equities Research. At the same time, Apple is recognizing that playing in the commodity market for servers is a mistake, he says, adding that the decision to drop the Xserve, Apple's only rack-mountable server, was in line with that strategy.

When the iPad debuted in April 2010 and the iPhone before it, many questions were raised about the fitness of those devices for the enterprise. Yes, there are still obstacles, as has revealed, but we've clearly reached a tipping point.

The JPMorgan deployment, revealed by Bloomberg News in late November, is a major indicator of that shift. Bankers will be able to access emails, contacts, calendar, and attachments via Microsoft Outlook, as well as have the ability to mark up and annotate confidential documents and make client presentations, according to the report. They will also be allowed to download applications for personal use, according to a JPMorgan internal memo obtained by Bloomberg.

Other financial service giants moving toward deployment of Apple products include Morgan Stanley, Crédit Suisse Group, Citigroup, and Bank of America. At some of those companies, the iPad displaces the BlackBerry, the iconic device of frantic-fingered traders and bankers. Apple's gain is very much a loss for Research in Motion.

The shift goes well beyond financial services. Consider the experience of RehabCare, a publicly traded company that employs 19,000 workers and operates 35 acute care hospitals and rehab facilities. It has to comply with both the Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPAA laws, so security and related issues are certainly major concerns. The company is developing critical iOS apps for some 8,000 iPod Touches, 700 iPhones, and 120 iPads. All tallied, three iOS apps will touch every facet of RehabCare's business, from improving patient care to winning new business.

Are the devices enterprise-ready? "There's this myth IT people perpetuate that these Apple devices can't work in the enterprise," RehabCare CIO Dick Escue tells our sister publication CIO. "We get so many benefits from doing it in the cloud and leveraging consumer technology."

Three signs that Apple understands and is exploiting how receptive CIOs are today to its mobile technology and even to the Mac platform:

  • InfoWorld executive editor Galen Gruman has been told by several CIOs that Apple engineers are actively visiting enterprises to find out what CIOs want in future iPads and iPhones.
  • Apple's growth in business -- via iPads, iPhones, and Macs frequently showing up outside of traditional creative departments -- now comes up in almost all his conversations with enterprise (and decidedly non-Apple-oriented) technology industry executives.
  • Apple has quietly opened conference rooms in some of its Apple Stores to meet with corporate customers. If Apple is sneaking into the enterprise, the enterprise is quietly leaving the doors open to let Apple in.

>> Read the next story

The top underreported tech stories of 2010:

  1. Apple quietly became a key enterprise provider
  2. Server virtualization has stalled, despite the hype
  3. URL-shortening services gave hackers a new entry point
  4. The health care industry faces its risky ERP moment
  5. Deferred IT maintenance is a ticking time bomb
  6. Energy-efficient Ethernet has arrived, with real savings
  7. A major Internet security hole was finally plugged
  8. Social media messaging is getting around traditional firewalls
  9. Businesses are resisting the XBRL mandate

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