Split View on iPad Air 2 is an important productivity feature that will appeal to enterprise customers. Image source: Apple.

In recent years, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has really started to take the enterprise market more seriously. You've probably heard Tim Cook brag about how many Fortune 500 companies have tested or deployed iOS devices or Macs -- (hint: it's been on the rise for years) -- but overall penetration remains remarkably low. The newfound emphasis on the enterprise market is best exemplified by last year's major partnership with IBM (NYSE:IBM), which is quickly becoming the Mac maker's greatest ally in the enterprise market.

But that doesn't mean Apple won't need a greater number of smaller allies, as well.

Incentives work
CRN reports that Apple has implemented a new rebate program for value-added resellers, or VARs. The new program puts a 2% backend rebate on iPads, and a 1% backend rebate on Macs that VARs sell through their channels to enterprise customers. These types of rebate incentives are absolutely essential to VARs, who depend heavily on rebate revenue from manufacturers. The move represents an important strategy for Apple in its bid to win over more enterprise sales partners.

One anonymous VAR partner believes that Mac and iPad enterprise sales at his company could easily jump 10% to 15% as a result of the new program, adding:

Apple is starting to view its product line as less of a commodity and as more of a solution sale. This is a key step for the channel. It puts a lot more meat into their reseller program.

There are volume targets that VAR must hit in order to qualify for the incentives, and while the targets are ambitious, they're entirely feasible. The new incentive program became effective last month.

Other VARs have mentioned that they have been trying to sell more Apple products, but need more support from the Cupertino company. That's exactly what Apple just delivered. The new structure will benefit VARs that offer a wide range of enterprise solutions as opposed to those that only sell the hardware. VARs that don't focus heavily on Apple could also be hurt, as well, because they may not be able to meet the necessary targets.

Boosting tablet penetration
Apple has long been a smaller player in the enterprise market, but it has a lot of opportunity with the iPad as companies embrace worker mobility. Enterprise tablet penetration is just 20%, and Cook recently said that "the walls would shake" at Apple HQ if the company could drive that figure up to 60%. The IBM partnership will play an important role in bolstering tablet penetration, as Big Blue continues to create custom-tailored apps.

There are currently 35 apps in IBM's MobileFirst for iOS stable, and the pair expect to have upwards of 100 apps available by year's end. Hopefully, Apple will finally release its long-rumored 12.9-inch iPad Pro this year, which promises to offer greater productivity to enterprise.

Considering the iPad's recent speed bump, Apple could use all the sales it can get right about now. Hopefully, these new VAR incentives do the trick.