Beauty and branding can only get you so far: What tech chiefs really think of Apple in the enterprise

Apple might rule when it comes to consumers, but business customers have a different set of requirements.
Written by Steve Ranger, Global News Director
What does Apple need to do to persuade CIOs to adopt its hardware?
Demand for Apple products in business is often portrayed as being driven by staff rather than by the IT department -- the classic example being the chief executive who buys an iPhone and then insists that the techies make it work with business apps.

Certainly the success of the iPhone and the iPad in the consumer space has inevitably meant they will also be adopted by business users. There's often a further halo effect whereby some companies become more open to Macs as well.

On top of this, Apple has been trying to buff up its business credentials recently -- most notably by entering a partnership with IBM to develop enterprise iOS apps. But while Apple may rule at the top end of the consumer market, it's a different proposition in business: here, shiny gadgets must face up to the cold hard realities of enterprise IT.

The CIO jury is out

When asked 'Does Apple have all the elements in place to become a key technology supplier for business?' the ZDNet/TechRepublic CIO Jury responded 'no' by a margin of ten to two, suggesting that Apple has more to do to win the hearts and minds of tech chiefs who still hold the purse strings.

High costs, a lack of integration with other business software and a limited set of management tools were all mentioned as factors in holding back adoption by the IT professionals who responded.

Richard Frisch, CTO at Global Strategy Group, said that Apple doesn't have the security model or the administrator 'friendliness' that Microsoft or Google has. He added: "Apple devices are fine, as long as we don't depend upon Apple software or cloud services. They are a distant fourth to Google, Microsoft and Amazon when it comes to the enterprise cloud."

Mike Klaus, Information Systems Manager at City of Kearney, explained that cost remains an issue: "I need to place hundreds of devices and Apple's offerings, although good, do not provide enough additional value for business to justify the added expense."

Gavin Whatrup, group IT director at Creston, said that integration remains an issue: "That perfect slide transition produced in Keynote won't 'swizzle' correctly in PowerPoint 2010. Sharing files in cloud apps, such as Dropbox for Business, is a cinch, but place the wrong character in the file path and your Windows file share takes a nose dive. You can circumvent some of these issues with additional software and/or guidelines, but now you're in the compromise and complication, and in that space be dragons."

Whatrup added: "If Apple want to be considered on equal terms in the enterprise space, they need to integrate. Beauty and branding alone will get you so far, but the next step has to be for the OSs and protocols to start playing nicely together."

John Gracyalny, VP for IT at SafeAmerica Credit Union, said he issues iPhones to execs who need remote email access "and that works well". But he has also issued iPads to the board running a meeting app in order to eliminate paper, and said "my team spends way too much time supporting those".

He added: "Trying to VPN into our network and RDC [Remote Desktop Connection] to a Windows workstation from an iPad is a nightmare. I've retired mine and gone back to a lightweight Windows laptop."

Shawn Beighle, CIO at International Republican Institute, said: "While I appreciate options and competition, Apple just isn't there yet. I'm happy to be proven wrong though."

According to Chuck Elliott, CIO at Concord University, there is no denying that Apple is a key technology supplier for many businesses, but he added: "What I would like to see from Apple are affordable and effective management tools that aid IT professionals in managing Apple computers and mobile devices in a mixed enterprise environment. Based on Apple's history with enterprise, despite the current collaboration with IBM, this will probably take more time and iterations. In my opinion Apple has what it takes. I would like to know it's a priority for them, and they probably know how much we want it."

This week's CIO Jury was:

  • Delano Gordon, CIO, Roofing Supply Group
  • David Wilson, IT manager at VectorCSP
  • Mike Klaus, Information Systems Manager at City of Kearney
  • Shawn Beighle, CIO, International Republican Institute
  • Richard Storey, head of IT at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust
  • Gavin Whatrup, group IT director at Creston
  • John Gracyalny, VP for IT at SafeAmerica Credit Union
  • Kurt Schmidt, vice president of information technology at Capital Credit Union
  • Chuck Elliott, CIO, Concord University
  • Joel Robertson, director of IT, King College
  • Dale Huhtala, executive director, Enterprise Technology Infrastructure Services at Service Alberta
  • Richard Frisch, CTO, Global Strategy Group

Want to be part of TechRepublic's CIO Jury and have your say on the hot issues for IT decision-makers? If you are a CIO, CTO, IT director or equivalent at a large or small company, working in the private sector or in government, and you want to join TechRepublic's CIO Jury pool, or you know an IT chief who should, then get in contact. Either click the Contact link below or email me, steve dot ranger at techrepublic dot com, and send your name, title, company, location, and email address.

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