What is Happening? While most of the IT and consumer electronics world has been considering whether or not the “new iPad” rolled out by Apple this week is evolutionary or revolutionary (or, to borrow Apple’s bad pun, “resolutionary”), Saugatuck has been looking more deeply into the event and the announcement.

What we see is an important, and so-far overlooked, new management application targeted at institutional and enterprise customers, the Apple Configurator. This app provides a critical link in the Apple ecosystem for enterprise IT organizations, Mobile Device Management (MDM) providers, ISVs and VARs that allows enterprises to significantly improve and simplify the cost and complexity of managing iOS devices. Basically, the Configurator allows the configuration of an enterprise-standard iOS device/app image, then allows/enables that image to be deployed across multiple iOS devices. Previously, users and enterprises have had to manage multiple iTunes accounts in order to manage multiple iOS applications and content, depending through which account the apps and content were acquired. Such a management approach becomes onerous as the number of devices grows beyond even a few.

Apple Configurator allows improved simplicity in this regard. According to Apple, it can manage everything about an iPhone or an iPad, iPad, including apps, accounts, and content. Enterprise IT organizations, for example, can now configure an enterprise iPad image once, deploy it across enterprise and individually-owned devices, and keep it agnostic of/parallel to personal accounts on those devices.

The net impact for iOS users, developers, services providers, and enterprise IT shops is an opportunity to simplify and standardized enterprise management and use of iPads, iPhones and any iOS device. We see this as enabling an even faster- and farther-growing Apple grassroots enterprise presence and power, far beyond what is enabled by iPhones and iPads themselves. And it may strengthen movement by enterprise IT groups toward embracing iOS devices at a greater breadth and pace – eventually and effectively shifting Apple’s own non-enterprise-IT stance as well.

Why is it Happening? The Apple Configurator has been a capability missing from, and increasingly needed by, Apple’s ecosystem.

Apple maintains a laser-like focus on the user experience and on consumer sales. To this end, they have built a hyper-competent content and device ecosystem. This in turn has allowed Apple to develop a highly-curated-but-closed ecosystem. Together, the focus and the ecosystem have yielded premium pricing and market leadership in tablet and smartphone spaces.

Apple has also studiously avoided enterprise IT. Steve Jobs himself regularly stated that he did not want Apple to be, or become, an enterprise IT provider, preferring to focus on more creative and new types of devices, content, and services that enabled consumer/end users.

However, Apple is a victim of its own success when it comes to the enterprise. We’re starting to see more frequent orders for thousands of iPads coming in from enterprises worldwide. We see more and more pressure from enterprise business app and service providers to integrate their offering with iPads and iPhones. And the continued blurring of user device/business device removes functional and managerial boundaries between the consumer and the commercial environments – something that Saugatuck has been researching for clients for several years now. (Read: “Growing Pains: Consumerization Is The Heart of Fundamental IT Change,” and “Consumerization of IT Raises User Expectations, Creating Vendor Opportunities”)

Apple’s approach of decoupling management capabilities, network infrastructure, devices, applications, content, and delivery has allowed it to focus on its own core competencies: developing new user functionality, fostering its developer ecosystem, and allowing others to fill the demand of users and organizations by building within its ecosystem. Already there exist a multitude of MDM providers that operate within this niche, and we fully expect that more will begin to work within this space. On top of this, many 3rd-party ISVs and SIs are turning to the iOS SDK to provide value-added services to enterprise customers currently using solutions from larger vendors like SAP and IBM.

So despite is proclaimed “non-enterprise” stance, Apple has made very successful inroads into the enterprise market from the bottom up – driven by consumer demand, encouraged by broad ISV/developer interest, and capitalizing on increasing enterprise policies that enable and encourage “bring your own device” (BYOD) (Read: “Mobilization in the Cloud: Facing Bring Your Own Device Policies in the Enterprise”).

For an extended version of this Research Alert for registered Saugatuck members, click here.

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