iPad Revamp Targets Business Users

Following a sales slowdown, Apple is working with more than 40 companies to make its iPad a more appealing enterprise tool.
11 Clever iPhone 6 Hacks
11 Clever iPhone 6 Hacks
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Apple's iPad sales cast a gloomy shadow on its most recent fiscal third quarter, during which profits were driven by a record-setting 47.5 million iPhone shipments.

Cupertino shipped 10.9 million iPads during the same time frame. This indicates an 18% drop in devices sold and 23% revenue decrease.

The iPad has been tumbling since the first quarter of 2014, when it peaked at 26.4 million units shipped. It's a sign that even Apple has trouble competing in the tablet market, which Gartner predicts will further decline this year before a pickup in 2016.

[Salesforce looks to Apple Watch as a business app platform.]

Fewer people are snapping up new tablets or upgrading their current devices. Tablets are not must-have devices for everyday consumers, and even the newest products lack innovative features that would encourage people to invest in an upgrade.

Now Apple is looking beyond consumers and to the enterprise for the tablet pick-me-up it desperately needs. The company has never been a major force in workplace tech, but it's hoping its mobile expertise can give it an edge in a market dominated by competitors Microsoft, Google, and Samsung.

A Wall Street Journal report claims Apple has partnered with more than 40 technology firms to make the iPad a more appealing tool for business customers. The project has been internally referred to as the mobility partner program (MPP).

Many of the companies involved in the initiative are small developers of accounting or sales presentation apps, though organization names were not disclosed.

Apple's partners are working to develop iOS apps for businesses. Apple reviews their apps, suggests detailed changes, and encourages partners to build apps that work together. Partner companies were invited to present at Apple's March sales conference, the WSJ reports, and to train Apple business specialists.

As expected, Apple's new partner program is shrouded in secrecy. The project was first mentioned during an April investor call, with few details shared. Partner companies involved have admitted they lack details on their roles in the initiative and the names of all the businesses Apple has selected to participate.

The long-term goal of Apple's project is to sell businesses app bundles designed for specific industries (think accounting, retail). The company has also mentioned collaborating with mobile carriers AT&T and Verizon to help sell both apps and devices.

Research shows the enterprise could bring a boost to the sluggish tablet market. Forrester has predicted that, by 2018, 20% of global tablet use will come from the enterprise.

Apple has also been rumored to be working on a larger tablet for business customers. Developers exploring code in the iOS 9 beta found a concealed keyboard seemingly designed for a tablet with a larger screen and higher resolution. The discovery is the latest evidence of Apple's rumored iPad Pro.