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Will this be the year of Apple in the enterprise?

Ryan Faas | Feb. 1, 2012
Apple has never been considered an enterprise technology company, but it owns a significant share of the mobile enterprise market, largely due to the success of the iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air.

Although jarring for customers that have had long-time investments in Apple's server platform, the approach actually makes sense and offers significant benefits. It streamlines the company's approach to business. It allows Apple to tailor OS X Server to the needs of the SMBs. It allows third parties to offer additional enterprise integration and management features that surpass what Apple could offer (often at a reduced cost and by tapping into existing enterprise technologies).

All in all, the approach is much more logical and gives IT a great deal of flexibility in how to approach Macs, iPhones and iPads in the workplace.

Apple is still hands-on in the enterprise

With its new approach, Apple isn't the central enterprise solution for its products; Active Directory and Exchange at a basic level -- or third-party client and mobile management suites at a higher level -- now fill that role. But that doesn't mean Apple has taken a hands-off approach to meeting enterprise needs. In some ways, it's even more involved than it used to be.

Virtually all third-party management solutions for Macs and iOS devices plug into enterprise capabilities that Apple has built into its desktop and mobile OSes. On iPhones and iPads, that includes a set of MDM capabilities, and on Macs, it means Apple's client management framework. That gives vendors a set of consistent capabilities and helps to ensure that their various solutions affect the Mac and iOS user experiences in the same way.

For the most part, vendors that offer Mac client management or iOS device management implement most of the capabilities that Apple gives them. The differentiation and value-adds that vendors make involve their ability to tap into other enterprise systems, their management interface and organizational tools, their monitoring and reporting capabilities, levels of automation, the ability to manage multiple platforms, and other add-on features. This allows companies working with the same set of options to offer a variety of tools that can be tailored to, or centered around, different needs.

Even with that differentiation, however, all Mac and iOS management solutions offer a consistent set of provisioning options, controls and restrictions. And since all Macs, iPhones, and iPads are made by Apple, there's a consistent user experience, even in managed environments, across all of the devices.

This is particularly attractive with the iPhone and iPad. It doesn't bring Apple's mobile devices to quite the level RIM has traditionally offered with its BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), but it comes pretty close. When paired with with any of the major MDM vendors, Apple's iPhones and iPads represent the most manageable and secure mobile platform other than RIM and BES.

Given RIM's slide in the mobile market, the generally accepted failure of the PlayBook, and last year's spate of outages, the iPhone and iPad are worthy contenders for enterprise mobility plans. That employees are often willing to use their own Apple devices in the workplace makes those devices an excellent candidate for BYOD (bring-your-own-device) programs.

 

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