Tim Cook didn’t want to work at Apple at first. He just thought it was worth his time to go in for an interview and meet the company’s visionary founder, Steve Jobs. Then Cook heard the pitch from Jobs.
“All of the sudden, he’s talking about his strategy and his vision,” Cook recalled in a wide-ranging interview with Charlie Rose that aired Friday. “What he was doing was going 100% into consumer when everybody else in the industry had decided you couldn’t make any money in consumer so they were headed to servers and storage and the enterprise.
“I’d always thought that following the herd was not a good thing, was a terrible thing to do,” Cook continued. “You were either going to lose big or lose. Those were the two options. He was doing something totally different.”
That consumer-focused strategy, combined with the chemistry he felt with Jobs, convinced Cook to join Apple in 1998 as SVP of worldwide operations, against the advice of those around him. Now, 16 years later, Cook is working as CEO to help Apple break into the business space he was once glad to see the company ignore.
Apple announced this summer that it had entered into a partnership with IBM to create more than 100 business-focused apps with the goal of “transforming the enterprise.”
“We think we can change the way people work,” Cook said in the interview with Rose. “We’ve changed the consumer’s life. We’ve changed the way students learn and teachers teach, but when you get to the working environment, the change we’ve made, to us, isn’t significant enough. So we begin to ask ourselves why.”
The answer that Cook and his team came up with: There weren’t enough applications being developed for specific professions — apps targeted solely for airline pilots or bank tellers or pharmaceutical workers. “This is a way to enrich peoples’ lives in a big way,” Cook said, “to change the way people work.”
Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies and a longtime Apple watcher, notes that the company’s products have been used by business customers for years, whether that means studios and agencies using the Mac or salespeople and hospital staff using the iPad.
“The thing I would say that actually kept them from a strong enterprise push was Jobs was never enamored with the idea of putting together a dedicated sales and service organization [for enterprise],” Bajarin says. “That was a pretty big roadblock.”
Dell, Hewlett Packard and others have sizable teams dedicated to the enterprise space. Apple didn’t, but now it will have access to the team at IBM, though analysts we spoke with don’t expect it to bear much fruit until next year.
While business-focused applications are a big part of Apple’s strategy to more firmly establish itself in the enterprise space, some of its new and rumored devices may help, too.
Apple is reportedly developing a new 12.9-inch iPad for launch in the coming months. If you have some difficulty imagining consumers lugging that around on the subway, it’s probably because that’s not the intended use case.
Jeff Orr, an analyst with ABI Research, says larger tablets tend to be less mobile and more intended to be “parked and docked at a cubicle and moved to meetings and such.” These devices are also typically more expensive, making it more of a “business purchase.”
Then there’s the Apple Watch. Though it’s clearly a consumer-first product, analysts see potential for the Watch and other wearables to help employees get quick hands-free updates and let employers track the activity of their workers. Some business have already begun incorporating fitness trackers and smart glasses like Google Glass.
Angela McIntyre, a research director at Garner, says she’s heard “conservative” estimates that there at least 2,000 companies worldwide already using wearables as part of corporate wellness plans. She expects that number to grow thanks in part to products from Apple and Google.
If Apple can make its other iOS devices more compelling through new business-focused applications and larger form factors, businesses may feel that much more compelled to add the Watch to the list of devices offered to employees.
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