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Unlike HP, Apple doesn't have a robust channel, but Apple partners say this isn't a problem because consumer sales are driving the iPad into business, and Apple's ability to push its product to those consumers is strong.
"The distribution for iPad is extremely wide. It is much larger than the distribution for Mac. There are vendors who don't sell Mac who do sell iPad. They also have these retail stores that are a huge success, so I don't think the channel is a problem for Apple," said Kyle Bennet, Director of Technical Services at Simply Consulting, a Vancouver-based partner.
Michael Oh, president of Boston-based Apple reseller Tech Superpowers, thinks the iPad's success in enterprise to date can be attributed to the type of consumer that buys the tablet for personal use.
"Apple has realized that the people who walk into a store and walk out with an iPad are people who are in business. They are in Fortune 500. They are in SMB," said Oh. "They are really driving the demand, and maybe it's blind luck, but I think it comes down to Apple selling tablets to people who make business decisions."
The term, "consumerization of IT," has been used for years to describe the use of personal devices for business functions, but Oh thinks it has only started to make sense for companies in the last two to three years. According to a Trend Micro study published in July, almost two-thirds of organizations allow employees to use personal mobile smartphones and tablets for business functions.
According to Oh, this consumerization is the force behind the movement of tablets into enterprise. "The people buying these devices are not going to be IT managers," he said.
Consumers are driving tablets into enterprises, but IT managers do influence enterprise-wide decisions regarding technology and Apple faces challenges in courting them. Traditional PC deployments involve imaging machines with the enterprise's licensed software, a process that is not supported by the iPad. Business licensing for software purchased through the Apple App Store recently became available in the U.S., but is not yet available elsewhere. Competitors are touting enterprise-friendly features not found on iPad, from multiple input options, like a stylus combined with touch technology, to enhanced support services for enterprise customers.
In spite of the challenges, Apple maintains a healthy lead in the enterprise tablet race. Businesses are embracing the iPad in ways even Apple never imagined. According to Oppenheimer in last week's earnings call, Apple "continue[s] to be delighted by the diverse and sometimes unexpected use cases we see around iPad."
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