What the Apple iSlate excitement can teach the IT industry

Apple’s product launches are probably the only ones in the industry that could properly be called an “unveiling.”

The advent of the iSlate – if that’s what’s coming on Jan. 27 – is a good reminder of the impact Apple has had on the go-to-market strategies of major technology vendors, and the planning cycle that occurs within enterprise IT departments. The iPhone was still a long way away when the media had published several volumes’ worth of discussion on the applicability, security, and usefulness of the device in a corporate setting. IT managers probably had to answer more questions about a piece of hardware they’d never touched than they have about almost anything else in their careers. This is the unique thing about Apple: it doesn’t really innovate new products. Instead, its entry into a product category ends up defining the category itself.

This is all the more surprising given that Apple plays solely in the consumer space, politely ignoring the fact that many of its wares wind up being used by information workers with high-ranking job titles. In part by lacking any credible enterprise strategy it forces the industry to crowdsource a strategy on its behalf. If only that happened more often.

Imagine for a moment that SAP, say, was preparing to enter the office productivity space with a highly sophisticated set of applications. Don’t laugh; lots of people would have said Apple was up against a mature, already saturated market when it developed the iPhone. Now try to get excited about such an offering from SAP. Feel the buzz that’s associated with a highly respected brand. Assume that some degree of adoption within your business is inevitable. How would you, as an IT manager, answer the question: “Will we be able to use SAP Office?”

Most vendors have simply given up trying. Dell, HP and Sun have all come up with some really well-designed, even stylish servers, but they celebrate it with little more than a press release. Lenovo and others continue to try and reinvent the desktop, but they are so quickly forgotten that they become instant commodities instead of instant status symbols. I’m not really expecting these products to match the interest in an Apple launch, but couldn’t they at least aim for a percentage of one?

In our focus on strategic business thinking we sometimes forget the power of a good piece of hardware or software to inspire new concepts of working, collaborating or interacting with data. Apple has not, and it has focused on consumer activity because that’s where the passion is. Yet we spend more than eight hours a day focusing on business activity. Without confirming or releasing any details about what’s going to be offered next week, Apple has already told us a lot about how technology can make an impact.





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