Apple Acknowledges Its Enterprise Division

In early September I wrote a column titled Apple’s Taking a Pass on the Enterprise Prize. It appeared in Scot’s Newsletter and also on the Computerworld site. I was attempting to take Apple to task for its lack of an apparent big business strategy. Many Computerworld and Scot’s Newsletter IT pro readers have written me over the past year to say they prefer Macs but don’t feel that Apple supports business buyers as well as their Windows-related vendors. Many readers also feel the existing Macs are more consumer-oriented than business-oriented. So I wrote about that. And I wrote that I had contacted Apple weeks earlier and hadn’t gotten any real response from it about the company’s enterprise strategy.

The week after the column appeared (after I returned from a vacation), I received a call from Apple acknowledging for the first time that, yes, it has an enterprise division headed by Al Shipp, senior vice president of enterprise sales. Only hitch was, Apple’s PR department wasn’t authorized to let me talk to Mr. Shipp or, in fact, anyone in Apple Enterprise.

Because Apple wasn’t talking, I reached out to Dale Frantz, CIO of Auto Warehousing Co., whose company was the focus of a case study about enterprise adoption of Apple servers, desktops, handhelds, and software in Mac Attack! An enterprise PC shop switches to Apple, July 16, 2007, Computerworld, by Julia King.

My interview with Frantz was far-ranging and fascinating. Not many CIOs these days have the brass to dump everything Windows-related and start all over again with Apple. He’s in the middle of doing it. He’s met with Al Shipp and has more than 20 business cards from the Seattle office of Apple Enterprise. His several-hundred-thousand-dollar overall deal with Apple comes with all the discounts, support, and engineering help that you’d expect from Microsoft. Apple is in every way doing exactly what I called for (except for selling enterprise-specific desktop hardware) in it dealings with Tacoma-based Auto Warehousing. So what gives?

I’m working on a follow-up story to the Enterprise Prize piece. In the meantime, though, I couldn’t resist passing along Frantz’s best guess as to why Apple has reached out to some medium-size businesses like his but isn’t making a major push to reel in larger enterprises. His belief is that Apple is quietly preparing to enter the enterprise market — and doesn’t want to tip its hand until it has the infrastructure in place to support enterprise customers. By infrastructure, Frantz means documentation, trained software engineers, and sales support.

Frantz also readily agreed with my analysis that, during this time when Vista is floundering a bit, Apple has an unusual window of opportunity — call it 18 months — to make some inroads with businesses of all sizes.

Apple has made a lot of smart moves over the past few years. Maybe the next one, the move to enterprise sales, has just yet to be played.

If you’re an enterprise IT manager whose company has recently moved to Apple, I’d like to hear from you. Drop me a line. (If you let me know it’s what you prefer, I will keep what you tell me confidential.)

2 Responses to “Apple Acknowledges Its Enterprise Division”

  1. HumanJHawkins Says:

    I am impressed with Apple, but also believe it doesn’t speak well for a company when it doesn’t trust a Senior Vice President to speak to the press. Someone in this position should know what info can be shared and what should not. And he should be able to spin what can be made public into something that sounds positive and optimistic about future prospects.

    In any event silence tends to create a negative feeling, and Apple should be grateful that you went the extra step to find out more. Unfortunately, most journalists wouldn’t have.

  2. Scot Says:

    I agree. When it comes to the media, Apple has always marched to its own drummer. At least, so long as Steve Jobs has been at the helm. It’s hard to argue with his success at generating buzz and press. He is truly a master at it in the consumer marketplace. But it’s a whole different game when it’s B2B. I think Apple needs a business czar who is allowed to speak.

    From what I’m told by Apple insiders, Jobs is unlikely to let someone that high up in the company call any shots, nevermind talk to the press.

    Jobs has been instrumental in shaping the Mac and other key Apple products. The company was soulless and rudderless without him back in the 90s. But he’s his own worst enemy — and Apple’s — when it comes to some aspects of the business.

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