Apple in the enterprise: Tim Cook capitalizes on what Steve Jobs ignored

The ex-IBM executive does what his predecessor would not do, and profits handily.

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It was a widely-circulated and passed-around quote from Silicon Valley's most quotable CEO. In an interview with Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher at the D8 conference, Steve Jobs opined: 

"What I love about the consumer market, that I always hated about the enterprise market, is that we come up with a product, we try to tell everybody about it, and every person votes for themselves. They go 'yes' or 'no,' and if enough of them say 'yes,' we get to come to work tomorrow. That's how it works. It's really simple. With the enterprise market, it's not so simple. The people that use the products don't decide for themselves, and the people that make those decisions sometimes are confused. We love just trying to make the best products in the world for people and having them tell us by how they vote with their wallets whether we're on track or not."

I personally think there was more to it. Enterprise customers also want to see roadmaps so they know where a company is going for the next few years before they make a multi-million dollar investment, and Apple does not disclose anything ahead of time.

See also: How did Apple get to be a $25 billion player in the enterprise?

But whether there was more to the quote than what Steve said or not, the fact remains that under Jobs, Apple had a minimal enterprise effort. If they bought it, fine. If not, who cared? Support was non-existent and most of the time you had to go to an Apple Store and get help at the Genius Bar.

Steve's successor, though, had a different mindset. Everyone knows Tim Cook's supply chain brilliance, but often overlooked is the fact Cook spent 12 years in IBM's PC business before working with Intelligent Electronics and Compaq before jumping to Apple in 1998.

Cook doesn't have Jobs's anti-enterprise sentiment. His deal with IBM last year made this abundantly clear. The alliance, where IBM sells Apple hardware to enterprises and the two work on vertical industry apps, is paying off handsomely for Apple.

On the earnings call to discuss the company's third quarter numbers, Cook called the enterprise market a "major growth vector" for the company, with $25 billion in annualized revenue, up 40% over the same quarter last year. Cook said that Apple now has 75 enterprise partners, up from 40 a year ago, working to make the iPad, iPhone, and Mac more enterprise-friendly. Cook believes they have only just begun to penetrate the market, and he may be right. 

In the process, Cook has also in a way killed off the BYOD phenomenon. That's because BYOD was overwhelmingly people wanting to bring their Mac and iPhone to work instead of using the company-issued laptop or BlackBerry. What started out as a populist revolt by users has been mainstreamed and made acceptable by Apple. There's no need to BYOD any more when your company will issue an Apple product in the first place. That's one reason you just don't hear about BYOD any more, IMHO.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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