How Apple became a key enterprise provider

You won’t find many businesses with a more complex, security-conscious environment than JPMorgan Chase. So when the huge bank decided to deploy iPads in its investment-banking arm — following similar moves by Crédit Suisse and Citigroup — it was more than just a straw in the wind. Apple, long rooted in education, creative endeavors, and (more recently) consumer electronics, is now an enterprise company.

The most obvious trend driving the company’s shift, of course, is its smashing success in consumer-oriented electronics. Because so many businesspeople use iPhones and now iPads, IT departments have been forced to accommodate them at work. And despite early concerns for security, few, if any, major business breaches have been blamed on those devices.

“Enterprises have become more consumer-centric. Simplicity and elegance sell; complexity doesn’t,” says analyst Trip Chowdhry of Global Equities Research. At the same time, Apple is recognizing that playing in the commodity market for servers is a mistake, he says, adding that the decision to drop the Xserve, Apple’s only rack-mountable server, was in line with that strategy.

When the iPad debuted in April 2010 and the iPhone before it, many questions were raised about the fitness of those devices for the enterprise. Yes, there are still obstacles, as has revealed, but we’ve clearly reached a tipping point.

The JPMorgan deployment, revealed by Bloomberg News in late November, is a major indicator of that shift. Bankers will be able to access e-mail, contacts, calendar, and attachments via Microsoft Outlook, as well as have the ability to mark up and annotate confidential documents and make client presentations, according to the report. They will also be allowed to download applications for personal use, according to a JPMorgan internal memo obtained by Bloomberg.

Other financial service giants moving toward deployment of Apple products include Morgan Stanley, Crédit Suisse Group, Citigroup, and Bank of America. At some of those companies, the iPad displaces the BlackBerry, the iconic device of frantic-fingered traders and bankers. Apple’s gain is very much a loss for Research in Motion.

The shift goes well beyond financial services. Consider the experience of RehabCare, a publicly traded company that employs 19,000 workers and operates 35 acute care hospitals and rehab facilities. It has to comply with both the Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPAA laws, so security and related issues are certainly major concerns. The company is developing critical iOS apps for some 8,000 iPod Touches, 700 iPhones, and 120 iPads. All tallied, three iOS apps will touch every facet of RehabCare’s business, from improving patient care to winning new business.

Are the devices enterprise-ready? “There’s this myth IT people perpetuate that these Apple devices can’t work in the enterprise,” RehabCare CIO Dick Escue tells our sister publication CIO. “We get so many benefits from doing it in the cloud and leveraging consumer technology.”

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