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How Apple is Taking Over Business!

I’ve long felt that the business and commercial technology markets would eventually converge. It only makes sense. Mobile devices are as ubiquitous as Internet access and we have come to rely on them more and more in not just our professional lives, but our personal lives too.

Increasingly user-friendly development tools, cloud-based products and services, and a robust open source movement are shortening the innovative lifecycle, serving as catalysts for technological growth. And at the cornerstone of it all is Apple.

Apple’s formula is simple. They facilitate growth and innovation by serving as the designer, developer, integrator, publisher, and distributor of mobile content. What began as a seamless marriage of form and function has evolved into something much more powerful, consequently allowing Apple to establish the standard by which you measure every single relevant product or service against, whether you realize it or not.

And while an entire era of consumer electronics was spawned by Apple’s product development approach, I don’t believe it will be their crowning achievement. I predict they will contribute to even greater technological advancements by inadvertently revealing the palpable and often fatal flaws that have plagued the enterprise software industry for years.

Businesses have spent billions of dollars struggling to automate processes, integrate systems, and maintain their infrastructure. I believe I’m only slightly overgeneralizing when I say the results have often compromised the very objectives they set out to accomplish in the first place. Data integrity, version control, compatibility, security, and access issues remain – despite a lucrative market and fierce competition.

Businesses tried to solve their enterprise software problems with Windows Platforms and .NET Frameworks, and vendors were all too eager to develop products accordingly. Apple deliberately avoided the business market and Steve Jobs was vocal about his distaste for their bureaucratic purchasing process, lengthy sales cycle, and the abundance of corporate middlemen.

So while big business stayed busy customizing applications and segmenting systems, Apple chose to focus on the commercial market and under Steve Jobs’ leadership, they developed their own operating systems and software bundles.The New York Times published a great article in November of last year that suggested Apple is only now beginning to warm up to the business market, due in large part to the recent proliferation of iPads and iPhones among corporate users. Reluctant as both parties may be – their relationship can no longer be avoided. The appetite for Apple products is insatiable and it’s already crossed imaginary market lines.

Part of Apple’s irresistible appeal can be attributed to elegant design, and more importantly, a fluid user experience. Apple religiously infused these characteristics into all software and hardware products from a very early stage. A fact Steve Jobs summarized succinctly with his claim, "The only thing wrong with Microsoft is that they have no taste.” What may have once been an easy statement to dismiss, his words provide a great deal of insight about what he finds important and with Apple profits reportedly exceeding $13 Billion dollars in Q4 2011, businesses are starting to pay attention.

In the immediate wake of Steve Jobs death late last year, I found myself feeling both deeply saddened and incredibly inspired. The global outpouring of support was impossible to ignore. Mourners transcended typical social, economic, and cultural barriers, using Apple technology to pay their respects to a true revolutionary. I couldn’t help but wonder, at the height of the frenzy, how Steve Jobs would have felt about becoming such a sensational media hero. His life was defined by unconventional traits and anti-establishment, anti-Microsoft rhetoric. I knew it was unlikely that his posthumous popularity was a sign of widespread change in the technological world as I knew it, but it was just enough to leave me optimistic about the future.

Several months have since passed and the anecdotes have slowed. His infamous quotes no longer dominate the social media stream. My confidence in a sudden global epiphany on the critical importance of usability in software development has been all but lost for the moment. And the reasons have changed, but my optimism remains. Technology was thrust into the spotlight by the world’s unprecedented reaction last November, accelerating the fated collision between commercial and business technology markets. I think this is a good thing.

Technology blogger Horace Dediu recently charted ‘The Rise and Fall of Personal Computing,’ capturing a fascinating perspective of the market by using a variety of data and industry figures spanning the last 30 years. In addition to providing a dramatic visual of market volatility, the charts are a collective testament to Apple’s longevity and persistent dominance. But as you will see from comments to Mr. Dediu’s blog, that even in the face of compelling data and a post-Steve Jobs world where it seems everyone owns an iPhone, there are still cynics and they are abundant.

The Cynics. They are a group of people I am going to stereotype because they drive me mad and they deserve it. The Cynics enjoy exceedingly disproportionate job security, which they maintain by procuring Exchange Servers and Share Point applications en masse. The Cynics are highly resistant to the Business Technology evolution, choosing instead to remain in denial about IT’s inevitable death. They dispute the benefits of the cloud and claim Web 2.0 is a myth. The Cynics inexplicably insist on developing custom applications even when better, cheaper, and more robust solutions exist. The Cynics are vocal in meetings, proclaiming everything is a security risk because at the end of the day, that position poses the least risk to them. The casualty of The Cynic’s behavior is better, smarter, and more efficient business solutions that are even easier to use than their predecessors. But luckily, I predict The Cynics will be the first casualty of a unified marketplace.

And that time can’t come quickly enough. I swear it seems that no matter how hard I try The Cynics always end up becoming – not just a part of every-single-project-I-have-ever-worked-on – but the ones who are given ultimate control. Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against these people personally. Because they masquerade around the office as a normal human being, I often mistake them for intelligent and accomplished colleagues. I even humor them periodically by engaging in meaningless water cooler banter. That is, until they catch me off guard with a stubborn and remarkably steadfast allegiance to all things Microsoft. Then I do my best to avoid them.

I mean, what can you say to someone who questions the fundamental principles of a man whose company has greater financial reserves than the U.S. Government? How long do they honestly think the average employee will tolerate using a clunky legacy system with limited functionality and a steep learning curve when they can use their smartphone to access an application that monitors the electrical consumption of a single appliance in their home – with little to no instruction?

Hello, the Internet Generation is here. And they don’t expect a fully integrated platform that delivers an unlimited number of applications and data sources through a single, user-friendly interface – they demand it.

And that, my friends, is the paradigm shift we are currently facing. The convergence of business and commercial technology is only a matter of time. Need more proof? Check out the latest findings from managed enterprise mobility provider Good Technology, showing iOS far exceeds Android in enterprise activations. The future is sooner than you think. Cynics, consider this your warning.

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