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Friday, Jan 10, 2014 1:41am
Study: Eight percent of gov't, enterprise tech spending is on Apple
A new study by Forrester Research shows that despite not actively courting the business and government markets, Apple continues to win sales in those sectors through the quality of the products. Having accounted for only one percent of worldwide government and business spending in 2009, Apple now accounts for eight percent, and is expected to hit 11 percent in 2015 -- even more remarkably, the study does not even include spending on smartphones.

To be fair, spending on Linux and Android is also up from 2009, with the two alternative platforms now accounting for a combined four percent of worldwide enterprise and government tech dollars. Windows still rules the roost by a long way, but spending on it has fallen precipitously, from around 97 percent in 2009 to roughly 80 percent now, reports the Wall Street Journal, in part due to a shift away from desktops and even laptops to even more mobile devices, particularly for routine tasks. Smartphones were not included in the report, which only focuses on government and corporate PC and tablet hardware buying.

The credit for this minor revolution, says Forrester, goes to the combination of the iPhone's strong push for business-level features in more recent upgrades of iOS, combined with the introduction of policies that encouraged employees to "bring their own devices" (BYOD) or have more of a say in choosing what devices businesses should deploy and support. In an area formerly dominated by BlackBerry, the iPhone has quietly transformed institutional IT even as it largely withdrew from dealing with enterprise-level computing hardware, discontinuing the Xserve in 2010 and scaling back and simplifying OS X Server in recent years.

The Journal report notes that companies such as Cisco quickly migrated to iOS shortly after instituting a BYOD policy. Shortly thereafter, iPhones and iPads accounted for 75 percent of the company's registered mobile devices. Cisco has also replaced one quarter of its formerly Windows-based notebooks with MacBook models, and has since said that while Apple devices sometimes have higher initial pricing, savings on repair and support either evens out or lowers the total cost of ownership over time.

Another factor in the success of Apple in the business world is the ability to rapidly develop and deploy custom apps used by the institutions to improve employee efficiency. A representative from Kentucky's biggest electric utility said that until it wrote its own apps for iPads being used in the field by helicopter patrollers, it spent years (and considerable monies and resources) trying to develop a system where the patrollers could quickly find and report problems along the many miles of electric transmission towers scattered across many rural areas.

Because iOS updates can be rapidly deployed to all devices as soon as IT management clears it, users are all on a uniform system compared to its main rival, Google's Android -- where only the newest devices are likely to be running (or able to run) the latest Android version, and where even critical updates aren't able to be deployed for months following their initial release. Even today, only about half of all Android devices are running Jelly Bean (including some versions of it up to two years old), with only 1.1 percent running the most recent release, KitKat (4.4).

Largely, though, the reason for Apple's strong growth in corporate and government tech sales has been because the products meet the requirements and are very popular with its users, resulting in greater engagement, use and productivity. Apple relentlessly refines and reinvents its products with yearly OS updates, and in recent years has focused at least as much on polishing existing features as it has introducing new ones.

Its "secret" is in the focus it puts on improving the overall user experience rather than just ticking off a list of feature checkboxes: it is this dedication that allows the iPhone 5 family, with an 8MP camera, to both outsell and outperform -- even among cameraphone enthusiasts -- a more powerful, 41MP unit found in Nokia's Lumia 1020, as an example, and convinces Fortune 500 companies to deploy tens of thousands of "consumer" iPads rather than cheaper, more business-focused tablets on other platforms.