Report: Apple gears up for enterprise mobility push following IBM deal

According to a new Reuters report, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) is hiring a dedicated sales force and working with application developers in the area, an effort by the company to ratchet up its push into the mobile enterprise market following a deal in July with corporate powerhouse IBM.

The report, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, said that Apple's teaming with IBM has given it the backing and resources to challenge enterprise heavyweights like Dell, Oracle and Hewlett-Packard. The push also comes as Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) has decided to let users create and edit Office content on iPhones, iPads, and soon Android tablets using Office apps without an Office 365 subscription, potentially expanding the mobile reach of its popular Office apps.

According to the Reuters report, Apple has been working closely with a group of startups, including ServiceMax and PlanGrid, which already specialize in selling enterprise mobility apps. The report added Apple is talking to other enterprise app developers about more formal deals. PlanGrid focuses on apps for construction workers and ServiceMax focuses on fleet management.

Meanwhile, Apple has been sending dedicated sales teams to talk to corporate CIOs. Additionally, ServiceMax has also co-hosted eight dinners with Apple over the past year with corporate CIOs and chief service officers in an effort to woo them, 25 to 30 at a time. And it appears the efforts may pay off: Citigroup is reportedly in talks to use the apps.

Apple declined to comment, as did PlanGrid, the report said. ServiceMax CMO Stacey Epstein told Reuters 95 percent of the firms' customers use Apple devices and each new customer usually orders thousands of iPhones and iPads. "The field service market alone is a $15 billion market," she said. "One of our accounts may have thousands of field service technicians. It's a huge market opportunity for Apple."

In July Apple and IBM, once bitter rivals, agreed to collaborate on creating mobile applications for specific enterprise solutions, known as IBM MobileFirst for iOS solutions. IBM also agreed to sell iPhones and iPads to its business customers. The deal reflects Apple's desire to get its iOS software more deeply embedded in the enterprise segment as well as IBM's push into the mobile market. 

While Apple has not given many details about its enterprise push, on the company's latest earnings conference call in October Apple CEO Tim Cook said the deal with IBM will "provide a new generation of mobile enterprise applications designed with our products legendary ease of use and backed by IBM's cloud services and data analytics. Our partnership aims to redefine the way work is done, address key industry mobility challenges and sparked true mobile-led business change."

Cook said that developer teams have been working closely to develop "the first wave" of Mobile First solutions and that the first apps would be available in November starting in six sectors: banking, government, insurance, retail, travel and transportation and telecommunication.

Analysts have said that Apple's push into the enterprise could be a way for it to counteract slowing iPad sales, which have declined three straight quarters. 

Apple CFO Luca Maestri added that since the announcement of the partnership with IBM "hundreds of corporations around the world have expressed interest in MobileFirst solutions and we are actively working with over 50 of them to become foundational client for MobileFirst solutions in their industries."

Apple clearly wants to make the enterprise market another growth engine for its iOS device sales. However, much is still unclear about how the company will proceed. "It does make sense, but the devil's in the details," Forrester Research analyst John Rymer told Reuters. "The apps have to work and be economic. Can they produce solutions that are meaningful to enough people and reduce the cost over the customers doing it themselves? We'll see."

For more:
- see this Reuters article

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