Apple and Business Revisited

November 18th, 2010

I read the news the other day and, oh boy, HP didn’t do so well with the Slate 500, a traditional tablet-based PC using Windows 7. Yes, they did boast the fact that they sold more than they anticipated, but with total sales estimated at 9,000, that’s nothing to crow about.

Perhaps HP can state, in their defense, that this tablet was designed strictly for business customers. But the iPad has gained amazing traction in the enterprise. Didn’t Apple claim, at their last quarterly conference call with financial analysts, that most of the largest companies were testing or deploying iPads? If that’s the case, maybe Apple doesn’t have to worry about an enterprise strategy, despite claims from some tech pundits that they’re on the wrong track.

Then again, how many of those critics could, if given the chance, actually run a multibillion dollar multinational corporation without destroying it in six months flat? I wonder.

This week, in fact, there’s a story from Galen Gruman, in InfoWorld, which touts the growth of the iPad in business, while at the same time explaining how HP’s strategy has crashed. Typical business uses for the iPad include the financial community, lawyers, and health care professionals.

When the iPad first came out, I thought of it as a great tool for physicians and nurses to carry with them as they make their rounds in medical offices or hospitals. The wireless networking capability would allow them to consult medical records for patients, or perhaps even request tests and order prescriptions with connecting to the hospital’s wired network. They’d be able to easily enter information about the status of their consultations, which would immediately become part of your patient record.

Now the health care industry has traditionally used regular tablet note-books. Our family physician does, but the process involves the clumsy transition between stylus for entering data on the screen, keyboard entry, and back again. It’s rare to enter loads of text, so an iPad may be the perfect vehicle, assuming the appropriate software exists to make it happen.

According to Gruman’s article, Apple has actually sent staffers to talk to company officials to evangelize use of the iPad. What a change from the Apple of the past, which would never dirty itself to push product to the enterprise.

But there’s more!

In the auto industry, luxury car makers are starting to deliver those typically humongous and complicated user manuals on spanking new iPads. The most recent convert is Hyundai, the Korean car maker that recently introduced an expensive vehicle, the Equus, designed to compete with the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Let’s take this move a step further: Car sales people might also be outfitted with iPads, rather than traditional desktop PCs, to look up inventory, place orders and, of course, enter credit information to determine if a prospective customer qualifies for financing.

Certainly, the real estate business would also present great potential for the iPad. Agents can display photos of homes from their “listing servers” to customers, and perhaps take a mortgage application.

In factories, the iPad certainly would suit the needs of plant supervisors, who would need to make sure the production lines are moving efficiently, and handle inventory concerns and potential quality control issues on the scene.

I would imagine that attorneys might find iPads suitable for use not just in the office, but in the courtroom, where they could quickly consult huge libraries of legal precedents without having to bring in regular note-books or huge boxes of books. Just imagine a trial where the judge examines information on the iPads used by both prosecution and defense to demonstrate whether an objection has merit.

Looking at the reality and the possibilities, it’s clear that not just consumers are going to be buying loads of iPads this holiday season. This product has legs, and let’s not stop there.

When it comes to the iPhone, their increasing deployment in the business world, often as replacements for Blackberrys, is telling. Each and every revision of the iOS brings with it more enterprise-worthy features that are designed to make the iPhone more valuable in the business world. This is where Android-based devices are still playing catch up.

What makes this turn of events most fascinating is the fact that Apple has traditionally sold gear to consumers, not to businesses. They have never specifically tailored Macs for the enterprise, except, perhaps, for the Mac Pro, which is widely used by content creators who crave the ultimate in computing power, and are willing to pay high prices for the right tools.

The rest of the Mac lineup remains decidedly consumer friendly. The MacBook Air is even being touted by Apple as the future of the note-book, what with the lack of an optical drive, solid state storage, and strictly wireless networking; that is, unless you buy a USB dongle to connect directly to an Ethernet network.

But the long and short of it is that the enterprise suddenly looms as a major and surprising source of growth for Apple.

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4 Responses to “Apple and Business Revisited”

  1. dfs says:

    There are some problems for the use of Macs in business or other large corporations. Here’s one, that I’ve seen happen repeatedly in my own organization, I’ve even been snake-bit by it myself once or twice. We have a habit of writing internal e-mails on highly sensitive and confidential subjects, and are i m. h. o. far too loose in observing even basic security measures. Our most common source of inadvertent leaks is the use of e-mail programs such as Apple Mail which hook into an address book and have an auto-complete feature. All too often, somebody types in “John“ thinking he’s writing to John Smith, but the auto-complete addresses it to John Jones, and if the sender isn’t paying close attention off goes the e-mail to the wrong addressee, occasionally with disastrous results. A corporate environment requires an ability to switch off Mail’s auto-complete function (and it probably should have some kind of encryption ability as well). It might be possible to think of a number of other ways in which a brand of computer traditionally designed to maximize ease and convenience for individual users would need to be rethought before it could fit satisfactorily into a corporate environment.

    • MichaelC says:

      @dfs, in fact Apple Mail DOES have the ability to turn off address autocomplete. Open the preferences, click Composing, and uncheck the Automatically Complete Addresses checkbox.

  2. JS says:

    besides what Michael C said
    you do realize that Outlook now also has a Mac version.

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