How Apple could disrupt the Enterprise

How Apple could disrupt the Enterprise

Summary: Apple could easily disrupt and assimilate the Enterprise if it would perform one simple act of kindness: Give away its products.



The other day, I had the pleasure of speaking with Greg Kostello, President and CEO of, a private video sharing service (think YouTube, only secure) and our discussion diverted from givit to Apple. We talked about Apple in the Enterprise and how it seems that BYOD could usher in a whole new age of corporate technology. We talked about how reluctant IT personnel are to embrace BYOD until a CXO walks into the IT cubicle farm with an iPad that he wants to connect to the corporate network. Then everything changes. Greg suggested that if Apple really wanted to take over the Enterprise, all they would have to do is to hand out iPhones or iPads to C-level executives at a place like CES.

"What a great idea," I said with excitement and thoughts of stealing it as my own. I reluctantly admitted to Greg that I would give him credit for it and I do so now, begrudgingly.

But, I won't argue over who thought of what or who said this or that. The point is a good one. Apple could disrupt and takeover the Enterprise by handing out free iPhones, iPods and iPads to CXOs.

Why would that work, you ask? Simple. With certain technology shifts, you convert from the bottom and others you convert from the top. If BYOD isn't working by converting a company's user base, then you'll have to convert the leadership.

Company leaders get things done.

For example, if your company has a no BYOD policy, that means that no one can bring in their own device to use on the network. No personal laptops. No personal phones. No personal tablets. However, when a C-level executive wants to use her personal tablet on the network, you'll configure it for her without question. Quoting company policy to someone who probably wrote the company policy is not a good idea--career-wise, but you handle it like you think you should. Don't say I didn't warn you.

You, wisely, help her connect her tablet to the network and walk away.

A few days later, another executive or manager comes to you for the same purpose. Pretty soon, company policy has changed and now BYOD is standard fare.

But, wait. How did you know how to connect the original executive's tablet to the network? Oh, that's right, I forgot, those of us in IT are really immune from silly company policy. We can do whatever we want because, well, we can. We tell everyone else, "No," but take liberties for ourselves. That's just the way it works. Just like the, "No Facebook," "No Twitter," and "No personal email" rules that we ignore. That just doesn't apply to us.

Now, instead of saying, "No," to such requests, you have to do it for everyone or publish an Intranet How-To for anyone who wants to bring their own device.

If Apple were to hand out iGadgets at a conference, you'd see the BYOD shift taking place at a very high pace. It's going to happen anyway but might require two to three years to have the same reach as a "giveaway" episode that I'm describing.

So, what will happen if Apple does indeed disrupt the Enterprise with its technology? My crystal ball says that Apple products will become the ultimate remote clients.

Ultimate remote clients?

Yes, ultimate remote clients.

BYOD will usher in another Enterprise shift: The shift toward a data-centered Enterprise. No longer will companies have to worry about desktop hardware. Your company will provide services, such as remote/virtual desktops, storage, client Apps where appropriate and access. It will be up to you how you connect in to do your work. That's a tremendous burden off of company shoulders.

The company's burden is to provide you with a pathway in and services with which to work. The only difference in then and now is that you'll own the computer. For the most part, no changes will have to be made to your device.

Done correctly, the scenario is very simple.

You'll use your device to connect to a secure VPN. Apple devices come standard with a Cisco VPN client under Settings, VPN. You can configure your VPN to prompt you for a connection password. Then you'll connect to a virtual desktop using an App. For example, using an RDP or Citrix Receiver App. No passwords are stored on the device. Active Directory controls your logon credentials and your access to resources, just as if you were on the corporate network.

Once your device connects to the VPN, you have access to resources via Apps or through your virtual desktop computer. Problem solved. No corporate data ever stays on the local device. No virus or malware transmission is possible. No saved passwords. No device lockdown. No hindrances to the user device or the corporate network. Everything works as it always has.

The company IT department will manage user access through an AD-integrated management (MDM) program. Sure, you'll still have Windows virtual desktops and Windows servers but the traditional Windows desktop is about to die a quick and timely death. Everything in the data center. Everything managed from the data center.

I think that over the next couple of years, Apple products will disrupt the "desktop" and push Windows out of the way as the ultimate remote client. Windows has had a good run for the past 20+ years on the desktop but that time is about to come to a halt in favor of a more user-oriented, user-owned magic device: The ultimate remote client.

To speed things up, Apple could give away its hardware to company decision-makers.

And, that, my friends, is how Apple could disrupt the Enterprise.

See Also:

Wintel: beginning of the end or end of the beginning?

OnLive Desktop app now available from iTunes App store

Appleization and the Apple-centered Appleprise

Apple's iOS cited as the most popular mobile OS for enterprise

Topics: Apple, CXO


Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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  • RE: How Apple could disrupt the Enterprise

    On certain levels, Apple has already done that. I'm thinking about the time Steve Jobs gave an iPad to President Obama. A short time later, the Administration ordered quite a few Apple devices. Coincidence?
    • With so many security blind spots ...

      it sure is very disuptive if you use Apple stuff in an enterprise.
      • I guess that means you are useless at *nix

        Because (as far as Apple Desk/laptops are concerned) they're as straightforward to lock down as any of the *nixes.

        Other than that, as the blogger (who surprisingly for zdnet seems to have the capability of rational thought) noted at length the other apple widgets have the potential to be pretty useful thin clients, and they're not hard to secure either.

        Maybe whoever is your security boffin needs to beat you with a stick until comprehension comes to you.
  • Yawn

    Umm and what magical OS do iPads and Mac's remote into .. a Citrix / VDI sessions running Windows OS! Love the irony. Your shiny toy is a dumb terminal. All native goodness isolated and unusable.

    Your vision will only happen if / when companies sunset legacy Windows programs used to do business functions. Some of these are being converted to web based system but that takes time and budget, which is razor thin the past few years.

    So you say source it, you only have so much bandwidth. You ever see the bills for a OC3 to India with sufficient capacity? Not to mention the quality of work being done.

    I love the whole concept of enabling employees but enabling them and them actually being productive are two different things and no one has brought any research that BYOD improves productivity. BYOD is for those with the funds to show off their toys to those that do not. While your C level executive can afford a iPad, MacBook Air, iPhone. You have workers barely getting by check to check in the current economy and having the latest "gadget" is not even on their radar. They just want to do their job.

    So your saying every conference where freebies are handed out is how the new IT model should be in how technology is adopted and deployed in the enterprise? To hell with testing, validation etc? I'm sorry to tell you but entitlement is alive and well in corporate america and while these executives get some new toys to play with, they are not about to provide IT the budget or staff to deploy in mass these technologies. Oh but you say BYOD is all about sell support, you don't need more staff. BS. For every tech saavy user you have 50 who can't remember a password.
    • RE: How Apple could disrupt the Enterprise


      He will remember the password on his own device.

      But your financial points are well taken. Even Fortune 500 companies are loathe to spend on IT infrastructure updates. (In someways, I feel your pain. I experienced those cost constraints during my career when I spoke with my IT friends as they shared some of their frustrations with me.)

      But this is a BYOD concept where the employee wishes to use his device (few rational persons would call an OS X or an iOS device a "toy", BTW) and only seeks support from the IT staff regarding system intergration.
  • RE: How Apple could disrupt the Enterprise

    "You, wisely, help her connect her tablet to the network and walk away.
    A few days later, another executive or manager comes to you for the same purpose. Pretty soon, company policy has changed and now BYOD is standard fare."

    Or you get fired by violating explict Acceptable Use Policy.

    If you're lucky, that C-level executive might standup for you but the chance is rather slim since they himself/herself may not want to start another office political drama. *YOU* probably will take the fall.

    And, that, my friends, is how you ruin your career.
    • RE: How Apple could disrupt the Enterprise


      Pessimist. But that scenario could happen.
    • No, it's how you have a fun career

      Especially if you document it all, and push it into the system. You can really mess with people, when the people who would have to approve said "dubious connections" would all have signed off on them.
      • RE: How Apple could disrupt the Enterprise


        Wow... didn't thought of that >:)
        But probably won't get very popular when you mess with people like that.
  • Samsung could do the same thing. So could MS, Acer, Dell, ect

    But to say that it's an automatic slamdunk to give the CXO an iPad and all's set?

    Can't say what eneterprise has the author worked in, but it doesn't sound like the one I've worked in.

    We supply them with what they need, and they're all happy they pay nothing at for something that works so well.
    William Farrel
    • RE: How Apple could disrupt the Enterprise

      @William Farrel
      @Mister Spock
      It's not the bloggers, it's the people. The iPhone is hugely popular. Apple sold 80 million iPhones in 2011 world wide. People don't want two phones (blackberry typically) - one for work and one for home. They want to be able to work the way they want (Mac, Android, etc) on the device they want (tablet, laptop) using the Apps that they find productive, not according to some antiquated policy when Microsoft, Office, IE and RIM ruled the world.
      • I disagree. Mr. Hess appears to be attempting to push Apple

        Into the enterprise.

        [i]Greg suggested that if Apple really wanted to take over the Enterprise, all they would have to do is to hand out iPhones or iPads to C-level executives at a place like CES.[/i]

        Would that not imply that the C-level executives do not own the devices, as otherwise they would have no need to hand them out freely.

        This suggesst that they have little interest in the product, yet Mr. Hess believes that they should still use Apple products, and encourages the push.
        Tim Cook
  • Well, I don't know about others...

    ...but we bought iPads for our CFO and CEO, and a few of our department heads bought their own. Yes, we helped them connect to our network and made recommendations about apps. The end result? We now have several iPads collecting dust in desk drawers. Each of their experiences varied, but all found that the iPads were great for email and "consumption", but simply did not offer great value as a work tool. Our CFO, for example, told me that he pretty much lives in Excel, and he really tried to make the iPad work, but went back to using his laptop and BB. Our CEO has not commented on his, but I never see him carrying it with him. Two other department heads have told me that they are "fun toys" that they take when they travel, but did not find them to be practical for much beyond email at work. Since they all have BBs, the email thing is pretty well covered, and the BBs are easier to carry.

    I simply do not claim that this experience is relative to everyone, but in our enterprise the iPad is not a good fit. I do see applications where they might be a good choice, with Medical and Retail being two good examples, but not so much for our mix of MS Office and mainframe apps.
    • RE: How Apple could disrupt the Enterprise

      @itpro_z That's the thing, ones experience within their company does not necessarily apply to everyone else. Could be that the iPad or any other tablet doesn't fit with how they work or their specific duties or it could be they just creativity or drive to figure out how to make it work for them. The response to any tablet is going to vary from case to case.

      Of course to those that seem to take offense to this being about Apple, get over yourself. Guessing it would have been perfectly fine if they were talking about your OEM or OS of choice and is only an issue because it was Apple.
  • I've never understood this obsession with Apple needing to dominate the

    enterprise. It's not like they are hurting financially or anything.
    • It is not Apple that feel the need, it is bloggers and their ilk.

      It seems the bloggers are the ones that feel the desire to push Apple into the enterprise, with a non enterprise solution.

      I do not understand this obsession they have with it.
      Tim Cook
      • RE: How Apple could disrupt the Enterprise

        @Mister Spock It sure is far from an obsession based on the actual number of articles about it but I do find it funny how it seems to get your panties in a wad :-)
  • RE: How Apple could disrupt the Enterprise

    I agree with Samic. If it's against policy it's against policy - you're likely not going to get fired for following a policy and more likely to by not. Also, in my experience, those C-levels don't ever write the acceptable use policies - they just sign them off - but that's just my experience.<br><br>It's true that C-level "leaders" make decisions and have influence but they don't have a monopoly on either. A smart organization makes decisions with input from all levels, not just simply because the CFO discovered a new toy.<br><br>If Apple, or any device vendor, were to simply give away hardware on that scale in order to disrupt the enterprise (and shouldn't they be looking to help the enterprise instead?) it could possibly blow up in their face by a backlash from multiple sources. Sure, there's the moral stink that comes with that kind of strategy but no one's going to mention that when there are so many other business reasons to support a backlash.<br><br>As has been pointed out already, these devices are (but for how long?) for email and consumption mostly. I have three monitors at my desk plus a laptop to my left. I would feel claustrophobic using a tiny screen on an iPad, Galaxy, etc. It's no surprise to hear anecdotes of the newness wearing off and people returning to tools that have been serving them fine for years. The constant buzz about the death of the PC / laptop seems to me somewhat overblown and often not too accurately described. Obviously, the trends we see with what manufacturers are producing in the way of PCs and laptops is changing and new technologies like VDI will continue to evolve the landscape but I don't see people coming to work every day and not working with a keyboard, mouse, and one to five screens (insert snark about docking stations connecting to smartphones and tablets here).<br><br>Tablets have their place. I don't think they'll take over the enterprise, regardless of how manufacturers sell or push the product. There has to be a demand for the supply - and of course, Apple or others could certainly manufacture a new market with new demands. I also think Apple wants to sell its products to as many people and organizations as it can in order to make money, not "disrupt the enterprise."
  • RE: How Apple could disrupt the Enterprise

    Not really. Apple has very little to offer the enterprise in the way of other products and seems committed to reducing the number of products that are of any use to any larger corporation save for laptops.

    Apple have repeatedly stated that they are a consumer business, although that was under Steve Jobs' administration. There is no indication that the current administration has a different perspective.
  • RE: How Apple could disrupt the Enterprise

    Whatever you are smoking dude, is way to strong for you!
    When anything that Apple does could run the company, then executives would be willing to breace company policy. This reminds me the time a newly minted IT director wanted to bring in MS applications to run ERP in our company and throw out the IBM system i applications. It turned out that there is a little bit more to an ERP system than what MS exchange and MS server can do.
    At this moment I could see iPhones and iPads getting connected to the enterprise as email clients or browsers. Even for this, the enterprise has to provide a new layer of security since in any well managed network only approved devices can be connected. From here to "taking over the enterprise" it's a long way, strewn with the corpses of many other dreamers.