Apple has left its run at the business market too late, according to Australian resellers interviewed by CRN.
The company yesterday released a 128GB iPad aimed at business users, just as Microsoft prepares to launch its Windows 8-ready Surface Pro tablet, and while several other corporate-focused tablet devices running the new operating system stream onto the market.
The storage capacity on the new iPad has been almost doubled from the previous 64GB on offer, targeting business users storing large amounts of data on their tablet.
Apple’s traditional consumer stomping ground has served it well. Last year the company's shares soared above $US700, making it the most valuable company in the world (a crown this year lost to energy giant Exxon Mobile), while it recently reported a record Q4 net income of $US13.07 billion.
But Apple's DNA as a consumer technology company appears to have impeded its ability to understand and nurture the traditional business channel that its rivals rely on to secure and support enterprise customers.
Last year Apple culled 200 local resellers in four months, offering no explanation.
The move was a critical blow to Apple's already stretched channel in Australia, drastically reducing the number of accredited business partners. The question now for many business customers seeking Apple products is where to go other than Apple's own retail stores or the likes of Harvey Norman, which lack the support and integration services offered by traditional resellers.
Haydn Tomlinson is a director of Sydney reseller IT Logic, one of the many dumped by Apple last year.
He told CRN he believed Apple felt threatened by competition from Microsoft and PC makers, and had cancelled local contracts to tout its tablet’s credentials direct to businesses and avoid resellers promoting Windows tablets over its iPad.
Tomlinson said the majority of ITLogic’s client base had indicated interest in ditching their iPads and implementing the Surface Pro.
“They think the iPad is just a gimmick they can give to their kids, but you can’t do actual business work on it,” he said.
“You can do touch screen with Windows 8, view all your drives on the network, print easily, actual productivity stuff. Everyone I talk to just treats the iPad as an e-reader that you can check your email on. But if you actually want to do work you go to your Windows laptop or PC.”
Tomlinson said boosting the iPad with extra storage was typical “Apple arrogance” and wasn't enough to sway business users.
“There are a lot of other things that business people want - the fact that Flash doesn’t work, as an example, that’s a big bugbear,” he said. “Apple thinks one thing will be enough to push people over."
"In the early days [of Apple's ascension] that worked, but now that Microsoft has caught up, if that’s the only thing they [Apple] are pushing they’ll be left behind.”
“Apple have done well paving the way and introducing new technology, but they’ve never been able to get it right with business. They’d have to come up with an entirely new product, adding storage won’t cut it.”
The Surface Pro is Microsoft’s response to the growing demand for mobility in the workplace. Offering the full suite of Windows applications, it will launch in the US in early February and is expected to arrive in Australia soon after.
Tough times ahead
Melbourne-based IT service provider Unified IT targets the SMB, corporate, education and government sectors with products from partners such as Microsoft, HP, Lenovo, Toshiba, IBM and Apple.
Managing director Goran Kurkioski told CRN while Apple appears keen to push its advantage in the business mobility market, Microsoft's Surface could be a game changer.
“[Apple has] been a predominant leader in that space for a while, but now you’ve got a product that has more functionality and flexibility, it’s not just browsing, it’s going to attach to the network,” he said.
“It’s [the Surface] definitely more desirable. We’re looking forward to it. We’ve got a lot of clients for whom it would be a really good tool," Kurkioski noted, adding further that the iPad lacked essential features needed for business.
“You can only do so much, whereas now we’ve got a product that plugs into the network and you can access your network drives, that’s the biggest advantage,” he said. “You can’t save files to a desktop and access Outlook and Exchange and network files on an iPad. The Surface is pretty much a PC in your hand.”