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Apple Reportedly Eyeing Enterprise To Boost iPad Sales

Apple is reportedly exploring enterprise-related avenues to boost sales of its newest iPad model. Partners think the decision will push the iPad above the sluggish tablet market.

Apple will hold off on the mass production of its latest iPad model until the second half of the year, as the company explores new enterprise-related avenues to break free of slumping tablet sales, according to Bloomberg.

Partners, for their part, think that having a hook in the enterprise market could boost the Cupertino, Calif.-based company's rocky tablet sales.

"This is a good move on Apple's part," said Stephen Monteros, vice president of business development and strategic initiatives at SigmaNet, an Ontario, Calif.-based solution provider. "Apple is still known for their consumer devices, so it's smart to also reach out to businesses. Apple can make their tablets more enterprise-friendly by giving their devices security and management features. My guess is that they're adding tools to make it easier for end users to deploy and manage apps and profiles. Another good way to attract the enterprise is by making tablets friendlier to verticals, because when you sell to certain verticals there are a lot of compliancy regulations," he said.

[Related: Apple Reports Record iPhone Sales, But iPad Sales Plummet]

Analysts had previously speculated that details about the new iPad would be unveiled during Apple's recently announced press event on March 9, where the smartphone company is expected to discuss its newest products, like the Apple Watch.

In addition to upping its new tablet size to 12.9 inches, Apple is also reportedly looking at add-on USB ports to quicken data transfer, as well as additional ports to connect a keyboard and mouse to the devices, according to Bloomberg.

Apple representatives did not comment on these reports.

Partners stressed that new enterprise tools could be the perfect extra boost for Apple's tablet sales in a slow market.

"The growth of tablet sales has not been as high ... but if Apple did something new, it would help," said Jeff Dettloff, president and CEO of Providence Consulting, a Lansing, Mich.-based Apple partner, which was recently recognized on CRN's 2014 Next-Gen 250 list. "If Apple focused on something different with more management capabilities, it could really spark more enterprise clients to buy this new device. But the most significant feature will be security ... when we're recommending products to business clients, security concerns are always at the top of the list."

Apple's recent partnership with IBM opened a budding opportunity for tablet sales in an enterprise-based market. The two companies partnered in December for their MobileFirst for iOS agreement, in which IBM would sell iPhones and iPads with industry-specific solutions to business clients worldwide, opening up enterprise opportunities for the iPad.

Overall tablet shipments have been steadily slipping, as a recent report by research firm IDC revealed the market was declining by 3.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014.

Though Apple's iPad shipments dominated the overall tablet market in the holiday quarter, the company faced its own struggle with tablet sales. The company reported its iPad fourth-quarter shipments dropped 18 percent to 21.4 million units, compared to the 26 million units shipped in the same quarter of 2013.

Analysts blame slower-than-predicted replacement cycles, as well as increased popularity of other devices such as larger-screened phones, or "phablets," as the main roadblocks for increased tablet sales.

According to Bloomberg, Apple's newest iPad will address the concern of tablet size, compared to phablets, with a bigger, 12.9-inch frame, significantly larger than the company's current 9.7-inch iPad and 7.9-inch iPad mini.

In addition to add-on enterprise accessories and design, partners also emphasized the significance of Apple's OS to bolster productivity apps and security.

"If there are more and better enterprise apps on the iOS, it may compel the enterprise to buy the iPad Pro," said Shin Tan, IT manager at Unistar-Sparco Computers, a Millington, Tenn.-based solution provider and Apple partner. "Also the ability to separate work and personal [content] on a device, like what BlackBerry software is capable of, could be a plus."

NEXT: Other Tablet Vendors Look At Enterprise Space

Apple isn't the first vendor to eye the enterprise market as a place for tablet sales to flourish. Other vendors, including Samsung, Microsoft and Lenovo, have vied for the attention of business end users.

"I think the iPad Pro will have stiff competition from Microsoft," stated Unistar-Sparco Computers' Tan. "The Surface Pro 3 has improved dramatically, and the Windows 10 could further improve it for use in the enterprise."

Also big in the enterprise tablet market is Samsung, which flaunts devices like the Galaxy Tab Active and Galaxy Note Pro. These tablets come armed with data-protective layers such as Samsung Knox, the company's security platform. The tablets also feature productivity apps and tools like virtual keyboards and the S Pen.

Ruggedized features are additionally becoming more prominent in the enterprise space, seen through Dell's Venue 11 Pro 7000 series, or the Panasonic FZ-G1 Toughpad tablets.


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