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Lack of Apple enterprise support frustrates IT

At Apple, enterprise support has never been a priority. IT pros can have lots of questions if they’re not used to working with Apple’s technologies, business processes or policies.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Apple enterprise support leaves much to be desired, but there are ways to get the company to listen to IT concerns.

Working with enterprise IT has never been Apple’s strong suit, and the problem is worse now that Apple iOS devices are so popular among consumers, panelists and attendees said at last week’s Macworld | iWorld conference here.

“As far as Apple is concerned, they’re inherently personal devices,” said Jim Rispin, a Mac administrator and consultant.

Even the biggest IT shops have a tough time getting the Apple enterprise support team to notice them. Even if a company were to buy 15,000 iPads, that revenue would only amount to a negligible fraction of Apple’s overall iPad sales, said John Welch, IT director at The Zimmerman Agency, an advertising and public relations firm.

In the fourth quarter of 2011, Apple sold a record 37 million iPhones and 15 million iPads, which helped drive the company’s revenue to $46.3 billion.

Apple enterprise support problems

In the past, IT could disregard Apple devices and the Mac because they were primarily for consumer use, but the consumerization of IT makes it almost impossible to ignore the iPad and iPhone in the enterprise.

“In certain cases we’re having this technology thrust down our throats,” said Ben Greisler, president at Kadimac, Inc., a Mac integrator in Exton, Pa. “[Apple] iOS approaches things differently, and it doesn’t necessarily match the way we’ve been doing it in the past.”

A lot of Apple enterprise support questions come up simply because IT pros aren’t used to working with the company’s products.

Apple’s business processes and policies can also cause problems. A particular pain point is the Apple Volume Purchase Program for businesses, which lets organizations buy and deploy apps for their employees. When an organization makes purchases, it receives codes to give to users, who are responsible for redeeming the codes in iTunes, downloading the apps from the App Store and then syncing the apps to their devices.

Because IT doesn’t typically have control over users’ iTunes accounts, users can accidentally download apps to the wrong accounts, and there’s no built-in way to keep track of redeem codes, said Kevin White, an Apple authorized trainer with Macjutsu, an Apple consulting and training firm in Louisville, Ky.

“This is probably issue number one for a lot of folks,” White said.

The program also frustrates some developers, who aren’t able to offer customers discounts for volume purchases.

“We’d love more flexibility around anything to do with pricing,” said Ken Case, CEO of The Omni Group, which develops productivity apps for the Mac, iPad and iPhone.

Making Apple enterprise support work for you

Despite Apple’s size and consumer focus, there are ways for enterprise IT to get the company’s attention. Several Macworld panelists stressed the value of Apple’s feedback sites, and IT pros shouldn’t expect a response to every single problem or request, however.

“A single vote doesn’t necessarily count, but if they start seeing a trend…” Greisler said.

The Apple enterprise support team also pays more attention when customers explain how a problem hurts their bottom line, Greisler said.

“Apple is a very big company, but they listen to dollar signs,” he added.

Let us know what you think about this story. Email Colin Steele or follow @colinsteele on Twitter.

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