In Apple's most-recent earnings call, the company disclosed three pieces of news of extraordinary significance to the technology world: first, that Apple's quarterly revenue had for the first time topped $20 billion; second, that the iPad and iPhone are achieving unprecedented penetration within the Fortune 500; and third, Steve Jobs openly and quite bluntly attacked Google's mobile strategy and its Android technology as un-open (if not fully closed), overly complicated for developers, and self-serving and disingenuous.
The comments from Jobs are vital not just because of his status as CEO of one of the world's most-successful and iconic brands, but also because Apple's products and philosophies have jumped species—from the consumer world to the enterprise—and are having profound repercussions on how CIOs shape their own strategies for the next few years.
As we wrote several weeks ago in Global CIO: Steve Jobs Declares War On Google, Jobs used the occasion of Apple's largest-revenue quarter ever to lay out his own detailed analysis on why he feels Apple will top Google in the booming mobile market:
"While Jobs participated in Apple's earnings call with analysts ostensibly to highlight his company's first $20-billion quarter—surely a remarkable achievement—a close examination of his prepared remarks shows that Jobs used that high-profile opportunity to hammer Google on multiple fronts:
--Google's daily activation volumes, which Jobs said Apple now exceeds by almost 40%;
--Google's volume of apps in its apps store, which Jobs said Apple now exceeds by 220%;
--Google's derision of Apple's platforms as closed, which Jobs said is commentary fit for an open sewer; --Google's treatment of developers, which Jobs said forces them to spend time tweaking and testing for 244 individual Android handset versions, versus 2 for Apple;
--Google's propagation of four different app stores versus Apple's single App Store;
--Google's willingness to force its customers to be integrators, which Jobs said is at odds with Apple's single-minded focus on doing what's best for customers—a philosophy that Jobs said ensures that "the user isn't forced to be the systems integrator"; and
--Google's lack of readiness with Android for the tablet, which Jobs said has resulted in Google telling developers not to build for the current Froyo release but instead to wait for a new tablet-specific version sometime in 2011." (End of excerpt.)
(For an extensive list of our commentary and analysis on Steve Jobs, Apple, and the iPad, please check out our "Recommended Reading" list at the end of this column.)
In that same column, we also talked about why Jobs' arguments represent something much more than just verbal sparring between two massive and powerful tech companies:
"For CIOs, this is not just drive-by commentary of the rich and powerful—rather, it's a peek into the future of what could very well be driving your IT strategies and deployments: the mobile devices that are becoming the real-time revenue-generating tools for not just your sales teams but for many (most? all?) of your creative and market-facing employees.
"In that context, Jobs' scathing comments about Google's products, its strategy, and its regard for customers and developers have enormous import as you begin to build out or accelerate your buildout of your mobile and customer-centric business-technology strategy."
For those reasons, I've picked Apple's ascendancy—not just among consumers but in the business world as well, where Apple will face Google as its primary challenger—as the #2 story of the year.
It would be foolish to think of Apple as merely some slick company that sells music and fancy phones to kids. For, while Apple surely does that, such a hackneyed description is about as valid as saying that all IBM does is sell mainframes. With regard to enterprise computing, the combination of where Apple has been and where Apple currently is represents a vastly different profile from where the company is headed.
As proof of that contention, here is some perspective on how rapidly big companies are jumping on iPads and iPhones as strategic new tools. Those details are followed by some comments from Jobs and also Apple COO Tim Cook during their mid-October quarterly earnings call with analysts and originally published in my column called Global CIO: Apple Storms The Enterprise As iPad And iPhone Surge:
"With iPad pilots or deployments taking place in 65% of the Fortune 100 and the iPhone now mainstream at more than 80% of the Fortune 500, Apple is obliterating the distinctions between consumer and professional devices and forcing CIOs to confront a simple question: are you willing to help embrace and drive this revolution in IT philosophy, or will you fight it?
"....Look at those numbers again: within the Fortune 100, two-thirds are now testing or deploying iPads—yet the device is barely half a year old! Is there something powerful going on here, or have the CIOs and CEOs at 65 of the largest companies in the world spontaneously and simultaneously gone stark raving mad?"
Here's what Jobs and Cook had to say about that:
"Well, the iPad is clearly going to affect notebook computers," Jobs said on the earnings call. "And I think the iPad proves that it's not a question of if, it's a question of when, and I think a lot of development and progress will occur over the next few years. "But we're already seeing tremendous interest in iPad from education, and much to my surprise, from business," Jobs said. "We haven't pushed it real hard in business, and it's being grabbed out of our hands. And I talk to people every day in all kinds of businesses that are using iPads, all the way from boards of directors who are handing out iPads instead of board books, down to nurses and doctors in hospitals and other large and small businesses.
"So the more time that passes, the more I'm convinced that we've got a tiger by the tail here. And this is a new model of computing which we've already got tens of millions of people trained on with the iPhone. And that lends itself to lots of different aspects of life both personal, educational and business." "From chief operating officer Tim Cook on the iPad's penetration into two-thirds of the Fortune 100: 'And I don't know about you, but I've never seen an adoption like this in my life in the enterprise—enterprise is historically much slower-moving on adoption,' Cook said. 'And as a matter of fact, we've built and are building additional capacity internally in the sales organizations to call on businesses.'
"Cook also emphasized that while the business market has never been a priority for Apple, the company has become quite serious about ensuring that this new wave of business customers has great experiences with Apple products: 'And so this isn't a hobby or something we're doing lightly. We put enormous energy in the company—in engineering and in software—to build a number of enterprise features into the OS,' Cook said."
And, of course, it's not just about the technology—it never is. With the iPad in particular, CIOs have a chance to fulfill their long-standing promise to deliver to their organizations not just functionality and efficiency but innovation and deeper business value and the power to dazzle customers. From our recent column called Global CIO: The Awesome Transformative Power Of The Apple iPad:
"The iPad engages its users to move beyond mere productivity—applying technology to a something you already know how to do and delivering a more-efficient outcome—and into the realm of innovation by allowing people to create new ways of seeing things, new ways of presenting ideas, new ways of communicating, and new ways delivering almost every fathomable type of information, from business graphics to images to text to video.
"In the enterprise world, I think that in a year's time we'll look at the iPad as the ultimate business-engagement tool, allowing companies to equip not only their employees but also their customers with a device that expands the possibilities of how those customers can engage with business partners in richer and more-meaningful ways.
"I think we'll see some crazy-smart companies buying iPads for not only their own employees but also for some of their customers, because in that way the seller's imaginative ideas and fresh perspectives can be fully shared with prospects and customers.
"Is that an absurd idea? Sure it is. But it's also absurd to consider the sales success Apple's had with the iPad, where even a company like Apple that is consistently recognized as having one of the world's top supply-chain experts has been unable to make enough of the devices to keep up with demand." (End of excerpt.)
In the last decade, CIOs could generally get away with being followers—even cautious, one-or-two-years-behind followers. Those days are over, and they are never coming back.
Maybe Apple and the iPad aren't right for your company—fine. But powerful and elegant mobility certainly are, and the need to unlock innovation across all portions of the company is, and the power of being able to operate in real time is becoming indispensable.
So if you can find tools that deliver all of that more effectively than Apple does, then go get 'em. Just don't do nothing—that way madness lies.
Bob Evans is senior VP and director of
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