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

The big question: how much of that success comes from the Mac vs. the iPhone?

Apple earnings Mac business iPhone enterprise iOS sales

As usual, Apple's strong earnings are largely driven by the iPhone, but something funny happened on the way to the bank this quarter: Apple set records for Mac sales as well, and let slip the fact that its enterprise business totaled some $25 billion in the past year. 

The big question, though, is how much those two facts are related. Or, to put it another way, how much of that $25 billion in the enterprise came from Macs vs. the iPhone?

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

Apple isn't saying, but let's look at some of the related data points from this week's fiscal Q4 earnings report and multiple press reports on the company's subsequent remarks to financial analysts.

For the quarter, Apple sold:

  • 39.3 million iPhones (up 22.1%)
  • 12.3 million iPads (down 19.5%—a number I plan to examine in a subsequent post)
  • 5.5 million Macs (up 3.6%—outperforming the PC market—and an "all-time record," according to CEO Tim Cook)

In the earnings call, Cook emphasized business sales, saying "enterprise business is not to be underestimated. Everywhere I look, I see significant opportunity." Cook credited this growth to continual development of new enterprise-oriented features in new releases of iOS, as well as technology and marketing partnerships with IBM and Cisco. He noted that the company will continue to add people to teams working on enterprise features.

On the other hand, Cook said that Apple did not plan to build a giant enterprise sales force, instead relying on partners like IBM and some 75 other resellers. He was quoted as saying, "We'll clearly continue adding some people, more on the engineering side, but I don't envision having a large direct sales force."

Cook mentioned that Apple's enterprise business hit $25 billion over the past year—a 40% year-over-year jump—and called it a "major growth vector" for the company. But he did not break down what percentage of that number came from what devices.

Cook mentioned that IBM has now bought 30,000 Macs and has committed to buying 50,000 more by the end of the 2015. Critically, however, IBM is not actually selling Macs, just buying them for its own use. 

See also: Just how close are Apple and IBM these days?

Even as overall iPad sales shrink, the iPad Pro—aimed squarely at enterprise users—is due to ship next month.

Add it all up and what do you get?

The picture is not entirely clear, but it seems safe to say that the lion's share of the enterprise business is iOS-based, not the Mac. At the same time, though, new products like the slick new Macbook (and presumably the iPad Pro) are well-positioned for enterprise adoption. For example, Cook crowed that IBM is saving $270 for every Mac it uses instead of a PC.

So is Apple's push into the enterprise for real? That depends on the Mac. After all, everyone is buying iPhones. Pushing some of those huge numbers into the enterprise is a no-brainer. While it may not seem that way here in the Bay Area where most startups and Internet giants would be embarrassed to supply Windows PCs to their workforces, the Mac still represents a minuscule fraction of the total business computer market. I'm still waiting for evidence that situation is starting to change.

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