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Apple's magic won't be enough for the enterprise market

As 2015 draws to a close, the staff of TechTarget’s end-user computing sites took to Slack and held an hour-long chat about the year’s biggest trends. Over the next few days, we’ll bring you slightly edited excerpts from those discussions. In today’s post, our editors discuss the mobile device hardware market.

Jamison Cush, executive editor: Looking at devices, the biggest trend over the past few years, which was definitely evident in 2015, is the move towards devices as a commodity, especially smartphones.

Colin Steele, editorial director: How do you reconcile that against the success of the premium iPhones?

Jamison: The biggest story you didn’t read this year was the $10 LG Android smartphone. It’s a prepaid, available from Walmart, that offers about 90% of what any other smartphone on the market can offer, including the iPhone. Apple is still lionized, but that’s eroding. Looking at the iPad Pro and its embrace of the pen and keyboard, it obvious that Tim Cook sees Apple not as the magic maker, but as another device maker.

Colin: Which isn’t the worst strategy in the world, especially as Apple targets the enterprise market more. “Magical” isn’t really a selling point for IT.

Alyssa Wood, managing editor: But users want the magic, and that’s the key before even getting IT on board.

Colin: Right, but Apple needs to go beyond that to win over IT. IT doesn’t care how magical their devices and software are if they’re not practical and manageable, and if they don’t help solve business problems.

Jamison: My prediction is that the next iPhone will sport USB Type-C instead of Lightning, making it more standardized than previous versions.

Adam Hughes, news editor: Really?  Maybe for the lower cost version, but if they go with a USB Type-C instead of Lightning, what does that say to its customers (like me) who have a Lightning?

Jamison: It says this: “Here, buy our expensive adapter too!”

Adam: And I will blindly say, “Thank you, Apple,” like the sheep that I am.

Jamison: Apple is running out of room to grow. The mobile market in the developing world is saturated. They will have to evolve and offer cheaper handsets, or more enterprise-friendly devices, if they want to continue growing.

Carl Setterlund, associate editor: If commodity devices are now as cheap as $10, does that mean we might see corporate-owned devices make a comeback? Or is BYOD still as strong as ever?

Alyssa: I doubt that the $10 device could provide everything the business user wants or needs. People are still going to bring their own.

Colin: BYOD’s time in the spotlight is over. IT has more granular controls over devices these days, thanks to mobile application management and mobile content management. So in most cases, it doesn’t really matter who owns the device. That doesn’t mean the BYOD trend is over. But it does mean the “BYOD or corporate-owned?” question isn’t as important as it used to be.

Bridget Botelho, senior news director: But if some users bring Android and others bring iOS, IT has to deliver apps that run on any mobile OS. Do you expect that to be a problem?

Colin: Not yet. Most small and medium-sized businesses aren’t even at the point where they’re deploying enterprise apps on a large scale. Plus, BYOD doesn’t mean “bring any device.” IT can still limit which devices and/or OSes it supports.

Adam: In August, we reported that Samsung is slipping as more and more businesses favor Apple devices. So if Apple is running out of room to grow, where will that put the market 12 months from now?

Jamison: Samsung is still No. 1, and Apple is No. 2. But Apple boomed as it entered China, and that market is slowing. I would expect Huawei and Xiaomi will continue to grow, eating into both Apple and Samsung.

Read our prior Slack chat on EMM market consolidation.