At this year's Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) announced iWork for iCloud as its full entrance into cloud-based productivity software that is supported across browsers and platforms. While much ink has been spilled regarding Apple as a second competitor to Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Office -- following in the footsteps of Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Apps -- the general consensus is that Apple will not pose a real threat, particularly in the enterprise space. The iPhone maker is clearly stuck in a game of catch-up, but those who forget history are destined to repeat it -- Apple had no chance of making a dent in BlackBerry's dominance in smartphones, remember?
Apple gets serious about smartphones for enterprise
In addition to iWork for iCloud, Apple is showing just how serious it is about going after the enterprise space with a series of new features aimed at corporate IT departments. First, the "Open in management" feature will allow companies to determine which documents and accounts can be used in which apps. Corporate information can be limited to specific apps, and personal information can be excluded from business apps – essentially, companies will have the ability to cordon off an area of your phone to be reserved for work.
Additionally, through "Per app VPN," companies will be able to ensure that corporate data flows over the appropriate network, helping to ensure full security. "Apple store license management" will allow companies to give business apps to employees while maintaining control and ownership. Ultimately, Apple is taking the steps needed to make using iDevices much more streamlined in an enterprise setting.
Can iWork be a disruptor?
It would hard to argue that Microsoft Office is not the standard by which all business productivity suites are measured, but the increasing adoption of Google Docs shows that Office is not impervious to competition. Google Docs has seen accelerating adoption rates and continues to pose a threat to Office -- probably one of the big motivators behind the release of Office 365, which takes Office to the cloud. Clearly, Microsoft takes Google Docs seriously because it has created ads that attack the security of its competitor directly: Here are some examples.
If you're wondering what this has to do with Apple, it's simply evidence that late entrants to the enterprise space do, in fact, have a chance to carve out a niche in a relatively short period of time. Where Apple has an even bigger advantage is in the fact that roughly 75% of enterprise device activations are on Apple products now. While this is mostly in the form of smartphones and tablets, it suggests a real willingness of business to consider Apple as a serious alternative to Microsoft in this space.
iWork for iCloud clearly has its work cut out for it, as it attempts to take on two juggernauts in the tech space, but underestimating Apple would be a mistake. If Cupertino is able to establish a presence with business -- beyond as a hardware manufacturer -- the growth potential could be significant. Apple has some catching up to do in productivity -- and even device management -- but the fact that it's making an attempt is great news for shareholders.