In the space of a few years, the iPhone has gone from being a smartphone non grata in corporate circles, to being a much sought after productivity device for suits around the world. You’ll also find enterprise-level business tech users hunkered down in deep thought, searching their minds and the iTunes App Store for ways to justify the purchase of the latest piece of successful businessman accoutrement–the iPad–to their superiors. If you’ve spent anytime working in a corporate environment, you’ll know that this is a definite change. Up until recently, the office was ruled by the PC and Blackberry–boring technology, sure, but also cheap and relatively secure, allowing a company’s the bottom line to stay red while providing a reasonably stringent IT security.
How did Apple manage to sway the hearts of the world’s enterprise giants? Simple: They left them the heck alone.
As part of an interesting op-ed piece over at GIGAOM, it’s argued that Apple has managed to snag themselves a large share of the enterprise market not as a result of expensive advertising or aggressive sales aimed at corporate purchasers (they do regularly post ads in publications like the Wall Street Journal and Business week, but not noticeably more so than they do in consumer-centric publications). Instead, the folks from Cupertino chose a different route: provide enterprise users what they need to feel comfortable in order to use the device, wind them up, and let them go.
By including greater IT security control over iPhone handsets and better enterprise-class Microsoft Exchange Server integration for iOS devices, Apple created an environment where large business could feel comfortable enough to consider the use of iPhones and iPads as tools to help them operate their businesses a possibility. This shift to meet the needs of the business world was a gradual one made over the course of a few years. Once the iOS devices entered the corporate ecosystem, the users were free to explore the App Store and find software that met the specific needs of the businesses they were involved in. This, GIGAOM argues, is a great example of Apple shaping its products to meet the demand of its users. This breaks away from the philosophy of most large manufacturers, who demand that a target audience be identified before a product can be built or released.
The article isn’t a long read, and the comments surrounding it are pretty lively–especially those responding to the statement that Apple allows users freedom of choice in how they use their devices. If you have a few minutes, it’s worth checking out.