Apple's Business Breakthroughs

Apple's Business Breakthroughs

Last week,the financial and tech worlds were buzzing with the news that, for a short while, Apple surpassed Exxon as the world's most valuable company.

While it may have seemed like a shocker, one only has to look around at what's in the hands of youths, college students, parents, road warriors, and executives to understand Apple's impact.

In the past two years, I myself have made the transition from what, for nearly a decade, was my can't-do-without BlackBerry, first to the Motorola Droid, and then to the Apple iPhone. Last year, I bought a first-generation iPad after a recently purchased netbook proved to be the wrong form factor for me. And this year I switched from a Windows PC to an iMac when my software, OS, and hardware all were nearing end-of-life and I had a choice to make. In less than a typical refresh cycle, I've become an all-Apple shop.

I've seen similar patterns with the executives I interview, as they direct their IT shops to support iPads and iPhones for employees and customers. While in the past IT would have barred the doors, citing the "riskiness" of Apple's platform, I've observed a relenting in the industry. Networking, applications and security teams are brainstorming ways to safely integrate Apple products into the enterprise instead of responding with blanket nos.

Recently, I interviewed a local government IT chief who embraced his users' passion for Apple products. He has equipped officials with iPads so that the town can save on the waste associated with printing and distributing meeting agendas and other large files. Other governments are putting Apple's mobile devices into the hands of field workers so they can speed business processes, such as ticking through on-site permit approvals or safety inspections.

Some companies I've spoken with plan to use iPads for highly mobile employees (in some cases in conjunction with virtual desktops) in the hopes of reducing the cost and burden of managing PC hardware and software. Restaurants are using iPod Touches to gather instant feedback on service and food quality. Some IT leaders feel it's too soon for them to tally the savings the iPad offers but they want to work with executives and other business leaders to realize other benefits such as improved productivity.

Similar discussions are happening around the world in companies, governments, nonprofits, schools, and homes. So, am I surprised that for a moment Apple was considered most valuable? Not at all.

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