Can Apple Break Into the Corporate World?

Business Week reported earlier this week that Apple is teaming up with Unisys Corp. to manage relations with corporate and government customers. The article also noted that Steve Jobs made it a point to recently state how well Apple multi-touch devices are doing among Fortune 500 companies.

These events seem to suggest that Apple, not satisfied with stealing away average consumers, is now gunning for RIM’s most sacred turf: the corporate world. Blackberry products are synonymous with professional communication and has had a firm grip on the market even in these recent years after the iPhone’s release. As I consider how Apple will continue to pursue this new customer, one other group comes to mind.

Repeating The Education Strategy?

Apple has had its ups and downs with selecting specific areas of the market to target. When I was at the age where I first used one of the strange and wonderful devices known as a personal computer, Apple products were beginning to make an appearance in schools all over the country.

These purchases were the first computers that many schools ever procured for student use and were an ingenious strategy for Apple to secure the education market for years to come. However, as Apple fell into a slump that nearly killed the company completely, Windows gained a foothold and grabbed up just about the entire PC market, including education.


Apple's not so subtle student-focused marketing

With the glorious return of Steve Jobs we saw Apple once again zeroing in on the education market, this time though the strategy was different: Apple began targeting the students directly. The astounding success of the iPod served as a gateway drug for many young people into the euphoric world of the Apple cult. To help this along, Apple launched its long-running Student Union program, which offered students a free iPod with the purchase of a laptop.

With the iPod generation finally off to college, what else would they bring with them other than shiny new MacBooks? Some generous estimates report that as many as 70% of incoming college freshman own Macs. In a perhaps more realistic study, Fortune showed that 27% of the college laptop market belongs to Apple, which makes them number one, sitting just above Dell at 24%. You read that right, Apple is no longer a minor player but is actually at the top of the market with student laptops. As these students advance out of college, they’ll buy Macs for work, then for their own children; you get the point.

Enterprise: A Tougher Nut to Crack

As you can see, Apple definitely knows how to play the long game and is just now beginning to reap the benefits of seeds sewn several years ago. However, it’s important to note that college kids are right in line with Apple’s core marketing strategies. This market wants well-designed, edgy products that can be perceived as the fashionable and superior underdog.

The corporate/government world on the other hand is a different beast entirely. These customers want security and powerful enterprise tools. The kind of tools that RIM has built a company on while Apple struggled to even launch a basic push-enabled email platform.

The iPad seemed to be a natural entrance point for many companies as the pull of such a portable, affordable and powerful device is quite significant especially in light of a complete lack of initial competition. However, even this avenue is showing signs of a serious threat as Blackberry readies its new PlayBook tablet. Though many skeptics see the PlayBook as more fiction than fact at the moment, RIM promises some impressive specs including two 1Ghz processors, 1GB of RAM and both a front and rear-facing camera.


The BlackBerry PlayBook

Needless to say, RIM seems well aware of Apple’s intentions for their customers and won’t be going down without a fight. If Apple does succeed in getting iOS devices into the hands of business professionals everywhere, you can bet their ultimate goal will be to pull the same trick as they did with students by using iPhones and iPads as a gateway to the Mac business.

What Do You Think?

Now I turn the discussion back to you. Do you think Apple will be successful in winning over a significant portion of the enterprise market? What needs to change about both their products and strategy for this to happen?

Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts.