Apple dreams of an iPad cloud for enterprise zombies

Apple dreams of an iPad cloud for enterprise zombies

Summary: No amount of new shiny tablets from Cupertino are going to change the fact that the iPad and its iCloud are unsuitable for the future of real enterprise applications.


All Hallow's Eve is soon to be upon us, dear readers. And there's nothing spookier or more bone chilling than a middle-aged tech writer trying to force bad horror film analogies into yet another iPad launch post-game analysis.

I watched, of course, along with everyone else the Apple launch event, which, among other things, brought us two shiny new tablets: The iPad Air and the long-awaited iPad mini with Retina display.

I'm not going to go into the purely spec-oriented and technical aspects of the devices, as well as an analysis of what this might mean for the competition's offerings in the consumer market. That would be a repetitious waste of time.

This has already been written about ad nauseam by our own resident vampires and all the other ghouls who have already successfully leached the life out of your grubby mouse-clicking fingers in order to give them drops of your precious pageviews.

Frankly, I'm not interested in the consumer market. What the kiddies and the pond scum do with their torture toys has no bearing really in what I write about, and frankly, neither should it matter to any IT decision maker or anyone who has to deal with line-of-business applications in a large enterprise.

And unless you've been a troll sleeping under an old stone bridge, you're probably aware that there's a trend to move those line-of-business applications increasingly toward the cloud. Clouds that will not only host enterprise applications and data, but also provide services in the form of APIs which devices will consume.

Earlier this year, I paid some attention to what this service-oriented landscape currently looks like, mostly from the consumer perspective. And the more I look at it, the more I realize that Apple's service-oriented strategy is increasingly mirroring its developer ecosystem: A walled garden in a creepy castle.

Cupertino is going to need really tall plants to keep the zombies from escaping.

Sure, lots of people currently bring iPads to work. They use messaging and calendaring services through the iPad's excellent (licensed) Exchange connectivity, and they connect to web applications as well as critical line-of-business Windows applications through Citrix and now even through Microsoft's native RDS.

And while Apple doesn't provide these tools itself, there are excellent corporate MDM solutions for managing iOS devices from a number of industry players, including Cisco, Citrix, Microsoft, and Good Technology.

Today, the iPad is an active participant in the on-premises world, most of it due to enterprises and third-party vendors having to do the heavy lifting to accommodate them and create workarounds for a device that is not inherently tailored for business. But just how long is that going to persist for?

We know the future of line-of-business applications is not going to be strictly with on-premises applications, and that it is going to be with clouds and software as a service (SaaS) — more immediately, we're going to see a transition towards hybridized, "mashup"-type scenarios, where organizations pick best-of-breed SaaS and web services living at different cloud providers and mix it with data providers on- and off-premises.

So while the iPad lives comfortably within the enterprise as a tolerated device squatter today, the future is not so certain. Apple has already shown from its most recent display of "free" software bravado that it wants productivity users to use iCloud and iWork, as opposed to Office or other alternatives.

The kicking and blood curdling screams from Apple's user base have already started.

While Apple has shown essentially zero interest in creating a canvas for enterprise users, leaving this to the developers to fill the void, it will eventually become intolerant to other parties stepping in on their limited squishy turf.

As we know from history, the company is an absolute control freak when it comes to the end-user experience, and will not permit "duplication of functionality" and anything else it can shove into its Developer Agreement in order to protect that creepy walled garden.

Apple begrudgingly tolerates Amazon, Google, and Microsoft apps that use their own respective cloud services on iOS today. But we know that this could change at any time if Apple feels its position is threatened in any way.

If the tone of Tim Cook's comments during the first moments of his opening speech at Apple's most recent product launch is of any indication, the company absolutely does have considerable insecurities about its competitors moving into its space.

Cook, a former IBMer, should know better. Enterprises aren't consumers. They don't like to be told by vendors what they can and cannot do, and they hate having restrictions imposed on them. They want their data to be portable, they hate lock-in, and they may have their own special requirements that may prevent them from using a one-size-fits-all cloud.

As Apple faces more competition from the companies that actually know how to run public clouds that cater directly to the enterprise — Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and IBM, as well as from other large providers that will create competitive or specialized cloud services — the value of Apple's DNA-bottlenecked platform and ecosystem diminishes.

For Apple to have its devices and services not be handicapped within the enterprise, it needs to embrace standards for interoperability and data portability, as well as an ongoing willingness to play nice with other cloud providers, a subject that I touched upon two years ago but is becoming much more of a concern today.

I don't foresee Apple playing nice in a cloud and service-oriented world. But hey, enterprises. Take your chances. Trick or Treat!

Topics: Cloud, Apple, iPad, Mobile OS, Tablets


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • disagree totally

    We are a large organisation with 6500 staff and the iPad is playing very well in our Enterprise

    We don't want to be reliant on a single vendor for our applications so having the ability to choose what we run on our iPads is not an issue.
    • Fragmentation

      I think more than 90% of the solutions developed locally is a totally unnecessary fragmentation. For example here in Sweden, almost every hospital got their own software to handle medical records. Instead of reinventing the wheel, they should just standardize on one software and ignore most persons demanding function creep. Of course the solutions should be neutral allowing API excess from web, apps and desktop software.

      The local IT-guy is fired, he and some companies just don't know it yet. My company fired 70% of the people working with IT and moved to Microsoft office 365 on windows 7. Support we are getting on demand from the company handling our data in their data center.
    • You've clearly noy had to reinstall secure apps very often then????

      I can honestly say supporting ipads in an enterprise is a headache once upgrades go wrong (and they do; more often now than before IMHO). Yep they're great consumer devices and I have one BUT secure apps are a pain once you have to generate the passwords and reinstall accounts. And the more apps you have, the more the pain!

      This situation cannot continue without a better solution; at least I hope it doesn't. I can't be bothered wit all the hassle.
      • So you're willing to put up with all the Microsoft hassles...

        (and we all know that's job security for you) but unwilling to put the same amount of effort on a different platform.

        What's interesting is that not everybody is seeing the same kinds of issues you claim. This seems to indicate more an unwillingness to use something simply because of the logo it carries. Sure, it's different, but experience and third-party testing has demonstrated higher productivity using Apple's products. Nearly every corporate IT person I know who has given Apple products a real chance has chosen to use Apple for their home systems. It's much more difficult to get past that unreasoning fear (called brainwashing) and get someone to even TRY an Apple device than it is to convince them to continue using it once they have.

        Just as a new manager has three months to demonstrate his abilities to lead, you have to give a new product that same amount of time *as your primary tool* to demonstrate its abilities. Ten minutes, ten hours, ten days--simply not enough; you're still stuck in the old-way mindset. Ten weeks? As long as you don't permit yourself to fall back on old habits that *might* be enough to realize the old ways are often the more difficult way. The only way to break old habits is to make sure they are no longer usable. Once you realize just what the differences can do for you, you'll finally ask yourself, "Why did I ever do it that other way?"
  • A little more thinking and less vitriol and name-calling, please

    This is link-bait disguised as analysis.

    Quote: "They don't like to be told by vendors what they can and cannot do and they hate having restrictions imposed on them".

    Translation: "They don't like Apple to tell them, but with Microsoft it's OK."
  • What's the enterprise doing...

    …with al the iPads they're buying?
    • They stick secure apps on them, and get multiple servers for each app.

      They used to do it with a Blackberry BES and a few servers... and I'm hoping there's still mileage in that solution. Way less hassle and far easier to support in terms of hardware and staffing.
  • I hear a lot of speculation here

    but not a lot of substantiated fact.

    Apple customers would scream bloody murder if Apple dared to thwart Office 365 from coming to iPad. And there's been no sign that Apple even wants to.

    The whole "don't duplicate" thing is about what is native to the iPad. They don't want you to make another web browser, the premise being that the iPad has limited storage and they don't want app store submitters wasting what they dump in with their binaries.

    iWork is not native to the iPad. It is an add on, so stop worrying about it.
    • Personally I find iWork much easier to use

      Far less complex and not stuffed with "features" I'll never use.
      • IWork

        I have always wanted to use iWork before, but found that Numbers was not up to snuff. But the new Numbers is simply amazing and more than enough compared with Excel. If iWork on iCloud ends up with as much functionality as iWork on Maverick, any open-minded IT manager will start wondering why they should pay big bucks for Office 365

        Apple used to need Microsoft to put Office on the iPad just because iWork was so weak. The pressure is off now. The pressure is now on Microsoft to put office on iPad, before users ditch Office all together.
  • Translation: my new employer, Microsoft

    is looking at the new iPad, then its own warehouses of unsold Surface tablets and is not happy.
    • Translation - You've no idea about enterpise needs or restrictions.

      Enterprise users can at least remote connect on their surfaces and have mouse and keyboard support. Not required for consumers, but one example of a total failing re enterprise use of my ipad. Then there's the issue of free access to the right side of the company firewall and open access to your data. The pad is great, so are Androids, but they are limited by apps and passwords for everything on an individual basis. Do you want to key in passwords for mail, and editing apps, and pdf apps, and IM connect apps ? I don't!
      • And apparently you have no idea of how an iPad is truly functional...

        in the enterprise. Some of the biggest businesses in the world, in almost every variety of enterprise, are using iPads to replace paper and pencil; laptop computer; paper documentation; contract generation and many other tasks once deemed only performed on workstation-grade PCs. Legal offices and construction contractors are using them on-site and in the courtroom. Retailers are using them on the showroom floor. And yes, managers and executives are using them in the board room to both deliver presentations and take notes on those presentations. They are proving far more useful than your tiny piece of the company wants to admit.
      • Key in passwords

        Have u heard of the fingerprint sensor? It's not a big leap to have that on an iPad, and integrate that with passwords. As with editing apps and PDF apps, use a little long do u think it will be before all those apps appear? Also, think iPad Pro
  • Chill Out

    Apple's never really concentrated on the enterprise and yet people, such as yourself, are already contending that they don't have a chance with this iPad/iCloud concept. I mean, WTF?

    You're simply overly eager to doubt anything coming out of Cupertino. Having an opinion's fine, but simply putting on blinders and making a lot of assumptions is stupid.
  • fact is

    Neither Apple, nor any enterprise care of your opinion. Enterprises buy new technology for two, and only two reasons:

    1. It provides and edge over their competitors; or

    2. It reduces known costs.

    As long as Apple provides either of these values to enterprises, they *will* buy Apple stuff. Judging by the volumes of iPads purchased for business purposes, this is still the case.
  • Are you sure?

    Enterprises aren't consumers. They don't like to be told by vendors what they can and cannot do and they hate having restrictions imposed on them. They want their data to be portable, they hate lock-in, and they may have their own special requirements that may prevent them from using a one size fits all Cloud.

    I wouldn't be so sure about consumers. Sure, they seem to act like stupid from time to time, but I assure you they don't like to be told what to do too.
  • If Apple puts enough brains into the iPads . . .

    . . . then the zombies will eat the iPads instead! Zombie apocalypse . . . solved!
  • iPad in enterprise

    Jason is so so funny. And while we are laughing they(the iPads) are growing in numbers by leaps and bounds in warehouses, in hospitals with doctors, technicians etc, on the sales floors everywhere. They are becoming the standard- not the Surface tablet nor the Androids.
    • Not exactly disinterested....

      Am I the only one getting this?
      "Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer."
      No, of course not.