Apple's iPhone turns 10: Here's how the device impacted business, work

Apple's iPhone made its debut 10 years ago. Here's a look at how it has impacted business and the enterprise.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Apple's iPhone is turning 10 years old and the once-in-a-generation device has had a wide impact on mobility, computing, design, entertainment and the tech industry. But don't overlook how the iPhone has changed the way we work since the first one went on sale June 29, 2007.

Now Apple's iPhone didn't do all the heavy disruption on work by itself. The iPhone should be viewed in the context of mobility, but cloud computing, analytics and social have also conspired to change the enterprise.

However, the iPhone moved the enterprise needle in significant ways. Here's a look at how Apple's iPhone impacted businesses.


Steve Jobs outlined the iPhone and noted that there was no need for a stylus and the best navigation tool was your finger. The killer app for the iPhone was better calls, he added.

That take may have been one of the few times that Jobs understated something. As I recounted when the iPhone initially launched, the losers of Apple's foray into phones were traditional enterprise device makers.

My loser list on iPhone launch day January 9, 2007 included Motorola's Q, Windows Mobile, Research in Motion (before becoming BlackBerry) and Palm. Flashback: Jobs: Today Apple is going to reinvent the phone

What the iPhone ultimately did was reinvent how corporations looked at mobility. Suddenly, the promise of handheld data and employee engagement was possible beyond email and push notifications popularized by RIM at the time.

More interesting is that Apple had little interest in the enterprise. In fact, Apple's enterprise ambitions are still fairly modest even though now CEO Tim Cook has focused on landing corporations.

Now this iPhone-to-the-enterprise migration took a few years. The knocks against the iPhone were security, integration with corporate apps, Microsoft Office availability and Exchange tools. It's no wonder that CIOs pooh poohed the iPhone at every turn--at least until CEOs wanted one.

So yes, the iPhone revamped the mobility concept for enterprises, but perhaps more importantly Apple led a movement that altered how corporate IT was delivered. Enter...

Bring Your Own Device

Apple became a de facto enterprise standard in the last decade largely due to one acronym--BYOD. Employees bought iPhones and brought them to work. CEOs decided they wanted an iPhone.

Road to iPhone X: The evolution of Apple's smartphone

The rub? Corporate IT was issuing BlackBerry devices with a bit of Windows Mobile. Ultimately, corporate IT had to bend and allow iPhones. There was little choice because they would have to support the devices anyway.

Apple's BYOD move into the enterprise also enabled the Mac to be more widely adopted. BYOD led to management headaches, but the movement forced enterprise software vendors to improve interfaces. BYOD also led developers to bring Amazon Web Services to work. Suddenly, employees and line of business leaders were driving IT purchases.

Without the iPhone spurring BYOD it's quite possible that we wouldn't have Google, Box, AWS, Salesforce and a host of others in Corporate America. Bring your own everything to work started with the iPhone.


In July 2007, Jobs said a few days before iPhone became available that the device would support third-party applications available through the Internet. These apps would have been classified as Web 2.0 tools, but signaled that Apple was going to build a developer-led ecosystem.

Fast forward to July 2008 and Apple's App Store launched via an update to iTunes. Apple was able to control quality, split revenue and offer a marketplace to build out its platform.

In 2011, Apple passed the 10 billion app downloads.

While most of the App Store applications had a consumer spin, Apple did have tools for education and enterprise technology vendors built on iOS. This move to iOS started a multiple year push to enterprise applications.

As a result, Apple's iOS leads in the enterprise even as Android garners the most market share in the consumer space.

In recent years, Apple has forged more enterprise ties with enterprise giants such as IBM and SAP. The goal of Apple's IBM and SAP partnerships is to build custom corporate apps that aren't available anywhere else. The secret sauce to these apps is the melding of back-end data and enterprise heft with Apple's front end interface.

iPad adoption was easy

After the iPhone launched in 2007, the prevailing view from CIOs was that the device had issues and wasn't enterprise class.

I frequently heard these complaints from CIOs at the Gartner Symposium/ITXpo powwow. By 2009 and 2010, CIOs had dropped their opposition to the iPhone and began buying in bulk.

In January 2010, Jobs introduced the iPad to the masses. By time the October Gartner CIO conference kicked off in October, most tech leaders had one. These CIOs panned the iPhone initially and weren't going to make the same mistake with the iPad.

The iPad, built on the same iOS used for the iPhone, was adopted at a rapid clip. The iPad and iPhone cemented Apple's enterprise position and led to a rethinking of buying cycles and when a tablet trumped a PC.

Without the iPhone, corporations wouldn't have moved so quickly to the iPad or tablets.

Data in the field

With the iPhone popularizing apps, web tools and mobile development, enterprises saw the need to put data at the fingertips of workers.

Apple can't take all the credit for the mobile enterprise data movement, but it provided the iPhone that proved to be a great vessel for information.

Mobility as well as cloud computing enabled corporate data to head to the small screen. Whether it's Microsoft's Office, Salesforce or IBM and SAP, the iPhone started the migration of corporate data to an employee's pocket.

Enterprise app experience

The final area where Apple's iPhone moved the corporate needle is a bit harder to quantify, but worth noting. The iPhone influenced the design of corporate apps as well as enterprise software.

On the mobile front, the iPhone and its apps became the mobile design metaphor for multiple enterprise software vendors. The iPhone, coupled with consumer web interfaces, forced enterprise vendors to adopt techniques such as design thinking to improve the user experience.

The enterprise app experience has improved, but still has a bit to go relative to the simplicity available in the consumer world. Nevertheless, the gap is closing. Enterprise technology is easier to use today and the iPhone had a good bit of influence.

ZDNet Monday Morning Opener

The Monday Morning Opener is our opening salvo for the week in tech. Since we run a global site, this editorial publishes on Monday at 8am AEST in Sydney, Australia, which is 6pm Eastern Time on Sunday in the US. It is written by a member of ZDNet's global editorial board, which is comprised of our lead editors across Asia, Australia, Europe, and the US.

Previously on Monday Morning Opener:

Editorial standards