updated 11:10 pm EST, Tue January 17, 2012
iOS devices, employee demand seen as drivers
The Wall Street Journal has profiled the ongoing emergence of Apple products (beyond just iPhones) at the 120-year-old conglomerate General Electric as a kind of metaphor for how Apple is continuing to nibble away at the corporate sector, largely driven by employee-choice programs that are allowing employees greater freedom and allowing Apple a level playing field against the dominant Windows PC hegemony found in most businesses.
While the Mac has not made much headway so far at GE -- where there are roughly 1,000 Mac users versus a sea of 329,000 PC users -- the company has captured nearly every executive-level employee in terms of either smartphones or tablets or both. About 10,000 GE employees carry an iPhone compared to around 50,000 Blackberry users, and the company says that as awareness of its year-old pilot project that allows employees to choose Macs grows, the company expects the user base for notebooks, desktops and phones made by Apple will also increase.
The iPad is considered to be a leading factor in corporate acceptance of Apple over the past two years, which has seen a remarkable transformation of the company's image from being actively anti-enterprise to having lead a revolution in IT circles as companies scramble to support the preferred tablet executives demanded. All 600 of GE's top officers carry iPads, and despite its reputation as more of a passive "media consumption" device, options for doing "real work" and specialized operations on the iPad continue to grow.
Companies like GE are seeing increased demand from job candidates and employees that the company support the devices they prefer to use at home, the Journal reports. Greg Simpson, GE's chief technology officer, said that recruits want to see if GE supports Macs and iOS devices as a way of asking "are they a contemporary company or not?" and said such support was "a recruiting-positive thing" for GE. Apple has ridden its popularity in the consumer market to become the number three PC vendor and the most-valued tech company in the world. It current has about 11 percent of the PC market compared to industry-leading HP's 23 percent, and was the only major computer vendor to expand sales in the fourth quarter.
Rising Apple presence at an industry-leading company like GE would put increasing pressure on other companies to increase Mac and iOS support. GE's pilot program allows any employee to use a Mac and/or iOS device instead of Windows as long as there are no major software incompatibilities or security clearance issues (such as those needed for defense work), but the program has not been widely promoted and awareness of the option is low. Though Apple's overall share is around 11 percent in the US, it's corporate share in the desktop and notebook segment remains at around one percent, while companies like HP and Dell reach close to 25 percent share.
The WSJ notes the dominance of the iPad in some companies that are looking beyond the traditional PC, citing as an example medical device maker Boston Scientific, which expects to shift entirely to the iPad by the end of the year. Rich Adduci, chief information officer, said that the change is led by the fact that the iPad is "a terrific product" but added that it is not without "some compatibility challenges with our corporate computing infrastructure."
Simpson noted that pricing had played another role, with costs of premium equipment between Macs and PCs narrowing considerably, leaving room for devices like the iPad to serve as a low-cost alternative where a top-end machine is not required. As an example, he cited the $999 MacBook Air compared to alternative "ultrabooks" from PC makers that ranged from $899 to $1,499. He said he feels that GE's program, at least, will continue to grow on employee demand. [via The Wall Street Journal]