Apple surges in on the BYOD wave

Is your business ready?

This article was produced in association with Jamf Software

Apple has wowed consumers with its phone and tablet devices but this is not the only market to embrace its products. Enterprises are snapping up iPhones and iPads in ever increasing numbers.

Last year, IDC said that the iPhone held 59 per cent of the US enterprise market, while the iPad rocked the sector with a 78 per cent share.

In May 2014, Dimensional Research surveyed 309 IT professionals and found that more than nine out of 10 businesses support Apple devices.

Why is Apple, which has been an enterprise player not until now, suddenly making such great strides in this field?

Part of the IDC analysis includes the education sector, which has always been a stronghold for Apple. As of August 2014, Apple had sold 13 million iPads into the education market (about six per cent of cumulative iPad sales), according to its chief financial officer.

But Apple has made inroads beyond education into the broader enterprise market. One of the most obvious reasons for its success is the rise of the bring your own device (BYOD) culture. Simply put, people love iPhones and iPads, and executives are people.

The human factor

Apple's high share of the consumer tablet and phone market naturally bleeds into the workplace because so many people – 90 per cent of Americans, according to Cisco's BYOD 2013 report – use their phones for work.

Dimensional Research's figures show that mobility and BYOD are a combined gateway into the enterprise. The iPhone and the iPad are the Apple devices most supported by businesses.

User preference was the top reason for accepting Apple in the workplace, cited by 78 per cent of companies. This was more than double the number of companies choosing the second most popular reason, which was higher productivity.

Business applications are another driving force. A key development was the release of Microsoft Office versions for iPhone and iPad, enabling executives to use the software they are accustomed to for working on corporate files.

Apple has not traditionally made a big effort to sell its product into the enterprise market and executives who love the products essentially established a beachhead on its behalf.

More recently, though, the company has become more aggressive as it looks beyond the consumer market, where tablet sales are stagnating.

IBM partnership

The company announced a partnership with IBM in July, specifically to address enterprise users.

The two companies will deliver more than 100 industry-specific iPhone and iPad applications that make use of IBM's analytics capabilities.

IBM will supply and activate iOS devices in an enterprise-friendly package, and there will be a new AppleCare service and support package for enterprise users.

As Apple’s drive into the enterprise takes on a new urgency, its devices will find their way into vertical applications. This was the case with US-based electrical utility PPL Corporation, which introduced iPads (registration required) after having approved the iPhone for employees in 2010. The company uses iPad GPS systems to help helicopter patrols survey almost 6,000 miles of high-voltage power lines.

Retailers are also embracing Apple's platform. Fashion chain Nordstrom has deployed more than 24,000 iPads and iPod Touch devices across its stores, and staff at Urban Outfitters use iPod Touch devices to check out customers and handle returns.

Almost all companies expect a significant growth in the use of Apple devices

With the company now pushing iBeacon technology for in-store customer tracking, the focus on retail will intensify.

According to Dimensional Research 68 per cent of enterprises expect to have about a quarter more Apple devices over the next three years, and almost all companies expect a significant growth in the use of Apple devices through 2017.

Friendly approach

Supporting executives who bring their devices in is one thing but embracing a vendor's devices as a key part of your mobile strategy is another. For iOS to move beyond BYOD, the technology needs to be enterprise friendly.

Apple has introduced more features that will support enterprise users, culminating in its latest batch of features for iOS 8.

These include hand-off features that enable Macs, iPhones and iPads to pick up phone calls, emails and messaging sessions where the other leaves off.

Peer-to-peer discovery and playback enable Apple mobile devices to connect to Apple TV for presentations and work sharing, even without connecting to a Wi-Fi network. And Airdrop, an iOS 7 feature, now works between Macs and iOS, making the sharing of files between devices easier.

Apple has also taken steps to ease the administration of BYOD and iOS 8 now includes device restrictions that IT managers can impose. It also has an always-on VPN, so users don't need to reconnect manually to a VPN for access.

One of the nicest features for corporate apps is certificate support for single sign-on, which means users can switch between applications without having to re-authenticate using their passwords.

Bridging the gap

Inadequate tools to manage software use and a lack of support for key business applications have been two of the big challenges facing computing professionals.

The likelihood is that these professionals won't be given a huge extra budget to help them come to grips with the influx of Apple into the organisation. Yet almost a quarter of Dimensional Research’s survey base said they didn't know how to handle it.

There is always an opportunity for mobile device management (MDM) to help fill the gaps, though. IT administrators can benefit from MDM solutions provided for Apple devices in a number of ways.

System imaging tools can help to provide clean operating system installs for high-turnover users, which can be particularly useful in chaotic environments such as schools, for example.

Dimensional Research's survey found that IT professionals were not wholly confident in the solutions available to manage Apple devices, though. Only 20 per cent were "very confident" in their current system, with 55 per cent "somewhat confident". This suggests that in many cases a solutions refresh may be on the cards.

Apple is not just coming to the enterprise, it is already there, in spades. It arrived mostly by stealth in suit pockets and briefcases.

And it is not going away because many of the people now using it are the same people that tell the IT department what to do. Companies will continue to tie iOS intimately into their business processes in a more mature adoption of Apple's platform.

IT administrators are going to have to deal with it, then. If they find themselves in a tight spot, then a proper back-end solution to help manage it may go a long way. ®

The Register is running a series of BYOD workshop articles in association with Jamf.

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