"The company's efforts and focus on the enterprise have been extremely erratic," says Charles King, president of IT industry analysis firm Pund-IT.
Love at first bite
In 2007, Apple released the iPhone, which was an instant hit with its target market -- consumers. Then something perhaps even Apple hadn't expected happened. Many of these iPhone owners liked their device so much they insisted on using them at work instead of their corporate-issued BlackBerrys.
"The iPhone enabled Apple to enter a door into the enterprise," says The 451 Group's Hazelton. "But that door has been open by employees already using the device."
Which Apple didn't quite get - or appreciate -- at the time. The iPhone was built for consumers who wanted to text, surf the Web and download games. (And sometimes make a call.) Nobody at Apple was worried about things like enterprise data leakage and business applications.
InformationWeek in July 2007 wrote that the "iPhone remains a closed system that doesn't allow install-it-yourself applications," calling the Apple device's design "a red flag to businesses that use a variety of apps and consequently need more flexibility than Apple's giving."
"When the iPhone initially came out, it did not have customized apps available, and there was no SDK (software developers' kit)," says Aberdeen Group senior research analyst Andrew Borg.
But Apple soon realized it had a lucrative new market to explore and quickly remedied the situation, in its own uniquely Apple way.
Romancing the phone
"Apple comes out with iPhone 3 (in July 2008), and at the same time it announced an SDK and a whole ecosystem, the App store," Borg says. "It changed the game again overnight. A small percentage of apps were for the enterprise, but when you're talking about 10 billion apps (downloaded from the App Store), that percentage represents a significant number."
Then, less than a year ago, Apple unveiled the iPad. This time, consumer and corporate America swooned, and what was now being referred to as the "consumerization of the enterprise" reached another level. By the end of 2010, Apple had sold more than 15 million iPads, many directly to corporations.
Still, for enterprise managers leery of having "unauthorized" devices connected to their network -- accessing email, other documents, databases -- Apple's mobile invasion of the enterprise has created new challenges.
Traditionally enterprise managers could rely on software and support directly from the vendors supplying the devices. For example, RIM offers a BlackBerry Enterprise Server for IT managers to securely allow enterprise executives access to corporate email and other documents using their RIM smartphones.