Apple: 'Enterprise' is as enterprise does

Gartner's Nick Jones wants to characterize Apple as a consumer company, but what happens when those consumers start using Apple's tech in the enterprise en masse?

Is Apple an enterprise software or hardware company? That's the question Gartner's Nick Jones asks, ultimately answering with "you have to have a pretty relaxed definition [of enterprise] before Apple fits it."

"Enterprise" is defined by the company you keep.
It strikes me, however, that "enterprise" isn't something you define. It's just what gets used within the enterprise.

With this definition in mind, Apple clearly fits the "enterprise" moniker, whether Apple wants it or not. As BusinessWeek reported back in 2008, the Mac is finding its way into enterprise computing, with or without the IT department's blessing. Ditto the iPhone.

Is it somehow less enterprise because the CIO didn't issue a policy giving permission?

Maybe "enterprise" means something more than "gets used a lot within the enterprise." In fact, Jones points out a few reasons he, personally, doesn't feel Apple is an enterprise vendor:

Apple does the bare minimum for enterprises, they aren't deeply committed to security, management, road maps, low TCO and so on. And they don't open up the architecture of iPhone enough for third parties to fill the holes.

But, again, is this really how we should define "enterprise?"

It reminds me of the criticisms leveled at open-source software early in its adoption. Originally Linux, for example, wasn't considered "enterprise grade" or "enterprise ready," presumably because it didn't meet Jones' hurdles above.

Now, however, Linux is considered an essential enterprise technology. What changed? Nothing...except adoption.

Here's a test for Jones: while Gartner pooh-poohs Apple's iPhone as an enterprise mobile device, perhaps for a variety of good definitional reasons, will it hold to such a rationale once the iPhone's market share within the enterprise dwarfs that of Windows Mobile, which has lost a third of its market share since 2008?

Seriously, at some point it won't be enough to listen to Microsoft's Ray Ozzie deprecate the iPhone's enterprise credentials because its 100,000-plus applications are "not very deep" and lack the "thousands of man years" that have gone into the applications that run on Windows. It won't make sense. Why? Because no matter how "enterprise grade" those Windows Mobile applications are, few within the enterprise are using them.

Enterprise is as enterprise does. Would you rather work for the company that builds software for the enterprise, or would you prefer to work for the company whose software gets used by the enterprise?

If you can have both, great. But it's silly to say Apple isn't an enterprise company simply because it sells to the enterprise without even trying.

About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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