Can Apple continue to rule the mobile enterprise?

Summary:Zack Whittaker predicts more success ahead. Steve Ranger sees the tide turning.

Zack Whittaker

Zack Whittaker

Yes

or

No

Steve Ranger

Steve Ranger

Best Argument: No

20%
80%

Audience Favored: No (80%)

The moderator has delivered a final verdict.

Opening Statements

One word: 'Yes.' And it's all down to BYOD

Apple's success in the enterprise is thanks to bring-your-own-device workers. Since then, the iPhone and iPad maker continues to bolster its security and mobile device management (MDM) solutions. It's already sailing along the enterprise train, and now the U.S. government has approved iOS 6 for secure government work, there's no stopping it. 
 
But Apple needs to remain focused. It can't miss a beat. So long as it continues to cater -- even if at first it was inadvertent -- to business users, it can enjoy a long success in a lucrative, long-term revenue generating market. Consumer demand for the iPhone sees no long-term decline, and the iPad still doesn't have a viable competitor. And thanks to Apple's mature ecosystem of devices, IT decision makers know what to expect in the upgrade lifecycle.

Apple's accidental enterprise supremacy is already passing

With the iPhone and iPad Apple never really courted the enterprise market, because it didn’t have to.

The bring your own device revolution saw iPhones and iPads flooding into the office environment and the IT department could do little to stop it.

But now the tide is turning. For many workers Android devices are an attractive alternative to the iPhone, while Samsung in particular is trying to woo enterprise buyers  by adding security software to its devices .

And it's not just Android that's undermining Apple's dominance. According to one estimate Windows Phone will be  neck-and-neck with the iPhone  in just a few years on market share, and has Microsoft's enterprise heritage to back it up.

Add in the new wave of Windows tablet that IT departments will want to buy (if only because  they have Office ) and Microsoft becomes another real alternative for enterprise mobility.

Apple's had it easy for too long. But now there are other highly credible mobile ecosystems around, emphatically wooing the enterprise buyer, and that means Apple's domination will soon be a thing of the past. 

The Rebuttal

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Welcome to our weekly Great Debate

    We'll get started in a couple of minutes. Debaters ready?

    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

    All set

    Ready to go.

    Zack Whittaker

    I am for Yes

    I ready

    Looking forward to this.

    Steve Ranger

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Enterprise muscle

    Apple's market share in the enterprise is a mirror image of what it is on the consumer front. What are the strengths Apple brings to the corporate market?

    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

    Credit consumers

    Apple hasn't brought anything deliberately to the corporate market. Whatever it has done was inadvertent. The key is to Apple's success in the enterprise thus far is the rise of the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) employee combined with the professional consumer-driven demand for the iPhone and iPad offering.
     
    The consumer demand, albeit rightfully pointed out, is less so than in the enterprise, but Android has a fragmentation problem. Simply put, it has too many software versions floating around;  back-end mobile device management (MDM) solutions have to keep up with outdated, flaw-ridden, potentially insecure software versions. iPhones and iPads have never had this problem, making it inherently appealing to the CIOs and IT departments.

    Zack Whittaker

    I am for Yes

    Agreed - answer is BYOD

    The launch of the iPhone and iPad coincided with, and maybe even initiated, the bring your own device wave. They've become business favorites because of their standout quality as consumer devices.

    Apple's greatest trick has been to sell to enterprise without talking to the people who used to make the buying decisions, the CIO and the IT department, who have had to accept iPhones and iPads because the workers had already splashed out. But that also means if end users fall out of love with Apple (and in love with another type of device) there's little depth to that enterprise relationship.

    Steve Ranger

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    More effort for business

    Apple has also managed to gain significant enterprise traction with the iPhone and then the iPad without a lot of marketing. Do you think Apple will have to speak more directly to the enterprise in the future? Why?

    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

    No real need

    There's no harm in it, but Apple has not needed to, and likely doesn't need to target corporate customers. It's become a company-to-company gossip pool around the industry watercooler about how the iPad has revolutionized workflow, lowered their carbon footprints, and increased employee mobility.
     
    Apple chief executive Tim Cook said , "almost all" have tested or deployed the iPad across their workforce. (Gunning for the Global 500, Cook said Apple has seen an 80 percent penetration rate with both the iPhone and iPad. The message is out there already, and Apple has barely had to lift a finger.
     
    Sector-by-sector, such as banking, it only takes one major firm -- like Barclays -- to take a leap of faith and roll out a tablet solution -- which in turn gives the entire industry a green light. It's a domino effect that will continue to run its course.

    Zack Whittaker

    I am for Yes

    The "i"s have it

    Apple's current lock on the enterprise mobility market is down to the impact of two devices: the iPhone and the iPad. Macs of all sorts are little more than a curiosity for most businesses, despite a limited halo effect. That's a relatively narrow base.

    Apple has had great success where the worker are making the decisions, but what it needs to do is explain the benefits to the boss, too, if Apple wants to turn that consumer infatuation into a long term business relationship. That's especially true as some of Apple's rivals, which do have the ear of the CIO and the IT department, have finally raised the quality of their devices to a level that the Apple has some real competition on its hands.

    Getting workers to fall in love with the iPhone was Apple's route into the enterprise – but Apple needs to talk to the CIO if it wants to stay there. And it might be a tricky conversation.

    Steve Ranger

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Action list

    What are three things Apple should do for the enterprise right now?

    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

    Steady course

    Nothing. As crazy as it sounds, it could always listen more, include more enterprise-focused features, and so on and so forth. But actually looking at what it has to offer -- a secure ecosystem, sideloaded apps, a highly compatible feature set with MDM, and a government-authorized security pass for work in the security sector -- what more does the enterprise want?
     
    Apple shouldn't change a thing. What it has already is a smart, albeit unintentional platform that adapts seamlessly between consumers, BYOD employees, and fully-fledged business users. So long as it can maintain that, Apple can maintain its edge and sail through. Where it could unravel is if it actually tries too hard and begins to alienate categories of users.

    Zack Whittaker

    I am for Yes

    Action needed

    Fundamentally Apple needs to show that it is actually engaged with the enterprise market. It needs to engage more fully with the CIO by helping them make the case for Apple hardware, especially around cost. It needs to make friends with the IT department and give them more tools and more support to make Apple's devices part of the beating heart of their business. As one tech chief told me last year, don't underestimate the level of frustration tech professionals have with some of Apple's integration with the enterprise. And for workers, give them new productivity tools or apps that help.

    Steve Ranger

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Challenge from Android

    Has bring your own device given Apple any advantages over Android? Given the consumer market share, you'd think more Android devices would be entering the workplace?

    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

    No need to change

    iPhone fatigue is a myth, in that it hasn't been proven yet. At least with the iOS platform, users have familiarity across the narrow spectrum of Apple devices. You can pick up any two Android phones -- they may run the same apps, but they look and perform completely differently. With loaders and customizations that go far beyond what the average iPhone and iPad user can imagine, there's a constant learning curve, and it's not easy to keep up.
     
    At least with the "same old iPhone," with the occasional screen size changes here and user interface tweaks there, there's no need to include an educative middle-man in the workplace to teach staff how to use yet another Android device.

    Zack Whittaker

    I am for Yes

    Business favors high-end devices

    Bring your own device really became mass market with the iPhone; it was the first time that all the pieces came together: design, processing power and apps. The same thing goes for the iPad and the rest of the tablet market, of course. That gave Apple a huge head start over its rivals that are only just catching up.

    Business tends to favor high end devices, so there's no huge surprise that Apple's devices have been making most of the running so far. But we're now onto the iPhone 5: how long can Apple's marketing machine keep consumers interested in a device that hasn't changed significantly for a number of years? When iPhone fatigue finally sets in, and the distortion field starts to dissipate as it will sooner or later, there are plenty of alternatives around.

    Steve Ranger

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Security strengths for Apple

    What are the security strengths with Apple's iOS in the corporate market relative to Android?

    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

    It's a perception issue

    There's a public perception now, particularly in the business market, that iOS is a more secure operating system and platform for enterprises. Why? You can't take anything out of it. Walled gardens and government-grade security notwithstanding, you can't physically remove anything from an iPhone or iPad. Something as simple as that can make all the difference in data security. EU member states have some of the strongest laws in the world -- it's a simple thing that can lead to a company falling within or outside the bounds of legal compliance.

    Zack Whittaker

    I am for Yes

    Android is catching up

    Apple is ahead here but Android is catching up. Certainly Apple's walled garden and close monitoring of its App Store means that security has pretty much never been a concern with its apps (unlike Android which has had a  much patchier record on this one). On the device side there have been some bugs with security implications such as the iPhone lock-screen flaw from earlier this year Google has been tightening the security on Google Play, and at the device level Samsung for one is addressing that with its Knox software which uses Security Enhanced Android to create a container to separate business and personal data. And there  are plenty of other third party mobile device management and anti-virus packages that can help fill the gap.

    Steve Ranger

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Should Apple worry about Samsung?

    Do you see Samsung as a viable contender in the enterprise against Apple? Why or why not?

    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

    Yes, but...

    Yes, but only if it cracks the ecosystem nut. Samsung has a diverse range of platforms it uses on the phones it makes. It has the low-end, all-round range of Android devices, and then it has the high-range enterprise compliant, out-of-the-box ready Galaxy S3 and S4. The key here is getting the software and the hardware to mix. iPhones and iPads, and iOS in conjunction get the ecosystem marks. Think about it: it's exactly why the BlackBerry was the business favorite for so long. Samsung is getting there for sure. It's already proven itself with the S3 and S4, thanks to Knox technology. But it has a long way to go until it can rid the underlying worries of public perception that Android isn't secure enough to deal with -- ultimately -- people's data.

    Zack Whittaker

    I am for Yes

    A viable contender

    On the consumer side, the Galaxy S4 is seen by many as the flagship Android phone. And so, inevitable, it will start appearing in the enterprise, thanks to the wonders of consumerisation. But increasingly Samsung is a viable contender as far as CIOs are concerned, too. Samsung has also been making the right noises with its Knox software, addressing the concerns that some enterprises may have around Android security. There's little surprise that Samsung wants to be considered as a serious business option, and it's portfolio sell in enterprise in terms of laptops, tablets and even Chromebooks is arguably stronger that Apple's.

    Steve Ranger

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Worry about Microsoft?

    How much of a threat is the Windows Phone, Windows 8 ecosystem to Apple in the enterprise?

    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

    Absolutely

    Of course it's a threat. It's a competitor. Just because it's not doing very well in market share rankings compared to Apple doesn’t necessarily matter. Threats don't always turn into actions, but they always have consequences -- often on the aggressor themselves. Microsoft in this case is like a rogue state -- North Korea. It has nuclear material, or the software, but can it make a bomb, the ecosystem? And while the West, in this case Apple, is part laughing at the competition, there's also an underlying worry.
     
    Windows 8 will stick around on the desktop so long as companies don't lose faith in Microsoft's ability to listen. Blue will at least alleviate some of those concerns. Microsoft's golden goose is in the server and cloud space. Its Windows Phone platform has barely gone anywhere in the time that it was reincarnated from Windows Mobile. With little new on deck to appeal to prosumer or BYOD users, Microsoft doesn't stand a chance in the mobile space.

    Zack Whittaker

    I am for Yes

    Look out

    Microsoft is well placed for a major fight back here: Apple's attack on enterprise mobility caught Microsoft absolutely flat footed. But now Redmond is (very wisely in this increasingly post-PC world ), getting very, very serious about mobile.

    Microsoft has a two big supporters in the enterprise: the CIO and the IT department. They like the idea of a set of technologies that can integrate with their existing systems, that they have the skills to support and that their users will understand. And that to a huge install base of users who don't necessarily want to change the way they work and you've got plenty of momentum.

    That means there is a ready market for Windows 8 tablets and laptops, and Windows Phone devices. If Surface finds its feet and consumers fall in love with some of Nokia's high end hardware, things could look very different very quickly in the enterprise: Windows Phone could be neck-and-neck with the iPhone in a few years. And Microsoft has one ace in the hole here, called Office...

    Steve Ranger

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    How do you beat Apple?

    If you were looking to upend Apple in the enterprise what would you do?

    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

    Rely on BYOD

    Hit the BYOD crowd hard with something appealing to the consumer, practical to the prosumer, while also slotting into existing enterprise solutions. That's a software problem more than anything. When's the last time you saw iPhones and Android phones talking to each other? Embrace the cloud.

    Zack Whittaker

    I am for Yes

    New challenger needed

    Rivals have to come up with a device that consumers love, and businesses need. That's a tough thing to do. Various rivals have some pieces of the jigsaw, but not all of them.

    Steve Ranger

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Threats?

    What rival platform is the biggest threat to Apple and why?

    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

    Samsung

    I'm going to go out on a limb here and say Samsung, or any smartphone maker for that matter -- and not strictly because of platform. Software has to run on something. The greatest threat to Apple's platform is its own falling sales, or sales that are being chipped into by a rival phone manufacturer. Not necessarily due to fatigue per se, as mentioned earlier, but a disparity in upgrade cycles versus Apple's release schedules. Forget the iPhone 5, or even the upcoming iPhone 6, which is expected to be released in the third quarter. So many are clinging on to their iPhone 4 and 4S devices, and have little motivation to jump to the latest minor iterations.

    Zack Whittaker

    I am for Yes

    Microsoft

    On balance it's Microsoft. It still has a huge momentum from the enterprise desktop and Office. In some ways Apple only got into the enterprise because Microsoft and its partners had failed to innovate and let a gap open up. The enterprise still needs Microsoft, but what it needs to do is create the devices that consumers will love. Some of the Nokia devices are getting close and I actually quite liked the Surface RT hardware (and I know which of the  iPad and Surface I'd rather work on ).

    Steve Ranger

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    iPad's need for Microsoft Office

    Does Apple need Microsoft Office on the iPad to really dominate the enterprise?

    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

    Microsoft Office's need for iPad

    No, but Microsoft needs Office on the iPad for a number of reasons. Microsoft isn't a Windows company anymore. It's a diverse range of smaller billion-dollar companies, rather than being one behemoth multi-billion dollar conglomerate. It has its fingers in every pie you can imagine, and as a result it's financially healthier than ever. Office is now bigger than Windows. But, Office relies on Windows to run. By shifting to a cloud-based model -- which Microsoft did -- it spurs on its cloud and services growth. Tapping into the iPad market could rake in billions for Microsoft. Not that it needs it, but it has to play to its strengths. This isn't 2005. Windows isn't the company's cash cow anymore.

    Zack Whittaker

    I am for Yes

    Businesses are built on Office

    Yes. Most businesses, whether they like it or not, are built on Office. If you don't have Office support you cannot dominate the enterprise; or at least not for the foreseeable future. Conversely, if Microsoft were to release some kind of Office for iPad right now it would undermine Windows 8 and Surface completely . Another big stumbling block is the huge range of enterprise apps, especially home grown ones built for Windows, that companies rely on. While there are ways to do it, companies are reluctant to overhaul their IT infrastructure just to support some new gadgets, no matter how shiny.

    Steve Ranger

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Did rivals fall flat on their faces?

    Last question, In your final estimation, has Apple won the mobile enterprise or have all the rivals (Microsoft, BlackBerry, Android devices) really screwed it up?

    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

    The race is still on

    It's true: Apple did become an enterprise hit by mistake. But it hasn't won yet. The race is still going. BlackBerry had the mobile enterprise for a while. Windows has the desktop enterprise practically forever, and still has it, but likely can't crack the mobile enterprise unless BlackBerry drops out of the race altogether. Android devices are slowly but surely infiltrating the business market thanks to Knox software, government-cleared HTC One phones and feature-packed Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4 devices. But Google has yet to crack the fragmentation problem, which leaves only a few Android-based contenders on the market. And until that happens, Apple can sit back and let Android's inherent flaws spur on its own growth in the enterprise space.

    Zack Whittaker

    I am for Yes

    Competition can't get it right

    Apple became an enterprise hit by mistake, and that's where it's ambivalent attitude towards the business market had come from. Microsoft, BlackBerry and others took their eye of the ball and failed to understand the consequences of BYOD. But they've had plenty of time to think about it, and now Apple is the incumbent under attack. Apple has ruled enterprise mobility for a long time but now it's going to get interesting again.

    Steve Ranger

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Thanks to all

    You'll agree, it was a lively debate. Closing statements from the debaters will be published on Wednesday and the final verdict from me will be posted on Thursday. Don't forget to leave your comments and vote!

    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

Closing Statements

Apple rules -- for now

Zack Whittaker

This debate's question is simple, and its answer is, too. Apple can continue to rule the mobile enterprise. The question is: For how long? Apple's biggest weakness is its own falling sales. If Samsung can exploit that gap and begin taking the market with its niche range of enterprise-ready devices, such as the Galaxy S3 and S4, it could seriously ding any hope of Apple making a comeback.

CIOs would be happier with one device for all to keep costs down, but employees seek diversity and change. And with a massive uptake in Android by bring-your-own-device (BYOD) users and prosumers, it's dipping in slowly into Apple's enterprise share. For now, Apple will hold its place — likely for the next year. Once Google fixes its Android fragmentation problem, that's when Apple really has to worry.

See also:

Apple's domination threatened

Steve Ranger

It's fashion and the rise of bring your own device that made the iPad and iPhone enterprise standards. When they were new, there was nothing that could match either of them for style or functionality: Apple caught the rest of the tech industry napping.

But now Apple's competitors have woken up, and caught up: both Samsung and Microsoft (with Nokia) are rapidly assembling ecosystems that will threaten Apple's domination.

At the same time the iPhone excitement, even with iOS 7, is beginning to wear off (although who knows what the autumn will bring). If iPhone fatigue becomes an issue with consumers, the same will happen with business users. And because Apple has done relatively little to woo the IT department or the CIO, its enterprise relationships don't have the same depth as a rival such as Microsoft.

Much will depend on how the next set of flagship handsets from Apple, Samsung and Nokia are received by consumers. But could it be that the same force – consumer sentiment - that made Apple an inadvertent, accidental, enterprise superstar is the same force that will see it eclipsed?

Enterprise inertia can bite back

Lawrence Dignan

The topic of Apple's continued domination in the enterprise is often a tricky one. Why? Time frame. Apple ran away with enterprise share partially because rivals failed to step up. Now Samsung, BlackBerry and Microsoft's partners are all gunning for Apple. As much as I hate to go with the crowd, Steve had a better argument compared to Zack, who seems to think Apple can stand pat and enjoy inertia in the enterprise. Over time, enterprise inertia can bite back --- ask BlackBerry. In addition, iOS 7 will give Apple's enterprise fans an excuse to look at other options.

Topics: Great Debate

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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