iPhone, iPad, and Apple's Consumerization of IT

By | Jul 30, 2012

Apple's iPhone and iPad continue to ring up spectacular sales and revenue numbers and reaffirm their dominance of consumer mobility. In the process, and nearly as a sideline, they are driving the consumerization of IT. But how far can it go?

Apple of the Consumer's Eye

As Josh Lowensohn reports at CNET, Apple's quarterly earnings report is adding fuel to a fire already burning bright, namely fascination with Apple's mobility pairing, the iPhone-iPad dynamic duo. Together they accounted for three-fourths of Apple's earnings in the previous quarter, and the new numbers are sure to be similar.

To be sure, total Android smartphone sales passed iPhone sales some time ago. And some early hints suggest that Google's Nexus could finally make the tablet market more than a one-horse race, pitting the iPad against a field of hapless donkeys.

But for now, the iPhone-iPad pairing easily dominates the high end of the mobility market, to the point where the biggest challenge for iPhone sales in the short run may be consumers holding off in anticipation of the iPhone 5.

Making Gadgets Sexy

The key to Apple's consumer success is a marketing story that transcends the ordinary. Apple's peculiar mystique goes back to the 1980s and survived Apple's period of decline. Then came the iPod and iPhone, and the company hasn't looked back.

And it is no coincidence that "the consumerization of IT" (or should it be iT?) became an industry buzzword just as the iPhone and then the iPad were establishing their place in public consciousness. They were the first Internet devices to become not just tools but luxury brands.

Suddenly, top executives who had previously been indifferent to or annoyed by "tech" were eager to show off their latest and greatest iGadgets. And to insist on using them for workplace tasks.

Ironically, however, the Apple ecosystem--iOS and the App Store--are not very well suited to the mobility needs of IT professionals at midsize firms. Yes, Apple devices generally do "just work." But ease of use comes at the price of a limited and rather inflexible user experience.

Apple's tight control also means that midsize firms cannot develop iOS apps, even for internal use, without jumping through App Store hoops.

The physical, form-factor constraints of consumer mobile gadgets probably place inherent limits on their use for sophisticated IT tasks. For these tasks, there may be no real substitute for a keyboard and large screen. But even within the limits of mobile devices, the consumeration of IT may only get its full test from more flexible Android and Windows devices.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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