Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is dominating the mobile enterprise space, according to Good Technology's Mobility Index Report.
During the first quarter, iOS devices accounted for 72% of all enterprise device activations worldwide, down just 1 percentage point from the prior-year quarter. Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Android devices accounted for 26% of activations, while Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone claimed 1%.
The Good Technology report did not track BlackBerry (NYSE:BB) devices, since they are activated via BlackBerry Enterprise Service. But since BlackBerry devices accounted for just 0.4% of smartphones worldwide at the end of 2014, according to IDC, it's unlikely they held a meaningful share of total enterprise activations.
Apple's enterprise plans
Over the past few years, businesses have relaxed their bring your own device, or BYOD, rules and allowed employees to use their own smartphones for work. As a result, popular consumer-facing iOS and Android devices have crept into the enterprise market.
That's also why Apple partnered with IBM (NYSE:IBM) last year to sell iOS devices preloaded with Big Blue's cloud-based enterprise apps. It was a win-win situation for both companies -- Apple established a mobile presence among IBM's enterprise customers, and IBM gained ground in the mobile software and BYOD markets.
Apple also gained ground in BlackBerry's backyard after the U.S. Department of Defense in 2013 approved iOS devices for nonclassified communications.
What this means for the iPad
At the core of Apple's enterprise efforts is the iPad. According to Good Technology's report, iPads accounted for 81% of all enterprise tablet activations during the first quarter.
According to a recent ChangeWave Research survey, 77% of enterprise customers who plan to buy tablets within the next six months intend to buy iPads. That could prop up iPad sales, which fell 29% year over year last quarter.
During Apple's second-quarter conference call, CFO Luca Maestri noted the company saw "very high interest from companies" that were using iPads "to transform how work gets done." CEO Tim Cook said that despite the iPad's recent year-over-year declines, he believed its growth potential among enterprise customers still made it "an extremely good business over the long term."
Don't forget about Microsoft
Apple's big numbers in mobile enterprise activations look impressive, but that doesn't mean it's gaining much ground against Microsoft.
Microsoft has a massive footprint in PCs and 2-in-1 devices that isn't included in mobile enterprise activation numbers. According to NetMarketShare, various versions of Windows still run on over 90% of PCs worldwide. Businesses that rely on Windows PCs to connect with iPads generally need cloud-based apps that synchronize with desktop counterparts.
Apple's partnerships with IBM and third-party software companies are filling that gap, but Microsoft is addressing the need with two strategies. First, the Surface Pro can simply be docked into a docking station to be converted into a full desktop. This eliminates the need for dedicated mobile apps, making Surface Pros and similar 2-in-1 Windows devices ideal upgrades for aging PCs. As a result, Surface sales have risen annually during Microsoft's past three quarters, while iPad sales have declined for five consecutive quarters.
Second, the new Continuum feature for Windows 10 will blur the lines by letting users instantly convert Windows Phones and tablets into full PCs by plugging them into larger displays. This means Windows Phones and tablets could gain ground against the iPad once Windows 10 arrives this summer.
The key takeaways
Apple's strength in mobile enterprise devices -- fueled by relaxed BYOD policies and robust consumer demand for iOS devices -- is bad news for BlackBerry and a potential catalyst for iPad sales.
However, Microsoft could turn that market upside down when it launches Windows 10. If Microsoft eliminates the barriers between smartphones, tablets, and PCs in the enterprise space, all-in-one systems such as the Surface Pro and Continuum devices could reduce the usefulness of iPads in the workplace.