Apple gave a lot of shout-outs to business customers on its earnings call

Credit: Mark Fugarino via Flickr

Apple's CFO Peter Oppenheimer and CEO Tim Cook touched on a range of topics during Apple's quarterly earnings call yesterday, but one subtle theme to the call was highlighting iOS devices in enterprise environments. While Apple has traditionally reminded investors that its products are in use by more than 90% of Fortune 500 companies, the datapoint has often been a quick blip after which announcements or questions went back to other topics.

This time, however, both Oppenheimer and Cook repeatedly touched on iOS success in the enterprise in more significant ways.

Early in the call, when discussing the iPhone and iOS 7, Oppenheimer made several enterprise-related points. The first was to note that iOS 7 has received the federal government's FIPS 140-2 certification, which allows it to be used by a variety of federal agencies. The certification also has significance in the private sector because government contractors, and companies in tightly regulated industries like finance or healthcare tend to view FIPS certification as an endorsement of a platforms encryption capabilities.

Oppenheimer also referenced the iOS 7 development tools (which include the new Xcode Server feature in Mavericks Server that is largely designed to simplify team development efforts) and the "ease" that they offer companies in developing enterprise apps, before going to on to discuss large scale iPhone deployments at major enterprise companies including some that he said had around 50,000 active iPhones within their organizations.

The topic of iOS 7 and apps in business environments came up again during the discussion about iPad sales during the quarter. In this instance, Oppenheimer referenced both the advantages offered enterprise apps developed by companies and their ability to leverage apps available in the App Store. Although, he didn't mention Apple's new Volume Purchase Program that allows organizations to license apps for users and revoke that license if a user leaves the company, this is one way in which Apple allows enterprises to truly leverage the App Store in the same way as traditional desktop software purchase and deployment.

Towards the end of the call, Tim Cook also talked briefly about Apple's position in the business and enterprise community, noting the percentage of companies using or supporting iPhone in the Fortune 500 (97%) and Global 500 (91%). He also gave similar numbers for the iPad for the Fortune 500 (98%) and Global 500 (93%). In addition he noted that the iPad represented 90% of tablet activations in enterprise environments.

More important than stats, however, was Cook's description of the enterprise market for Apple devices, noting that Apple had "done a lot of the groundwork" to be a major player in enterprise mobility. He also noted that the path and timeline of enterprise acceptance and adoption can be longer (and potentially slower) than in the consumer market. Perhaps the most striking sentiment was the implication Apple's expects to get more payback from its efforts to meet the needs of enterprise companies, in part because of the "stickiness" of its ecosystem.

Although not directly enterprise-focused, some other statements were telling. Apple touted the quick adoption of iOS 7 (now powering 80% of iOS device, up from 74% last month) with its new features and security capabilities while noting teasing that there is nowhere near that level of adoption of any individual Android release. The company also highlighted the fact that Mavericks, which has its own share of enterprise-oriented features, was released as a free upgrade (for consumers and business users) and that the company had decided to make its iWork productivity suite (which finally resolved its problem with securely sharing documents in its most recent update) free alongside the purchase of a new Mac or iOS device.

All of that speaks to a real commitment on Apple's part to retain and expand upon the dominance that the company has achieved in business. It's also a striking comparison to the dismissive way Steve Jobs could behave towards the needs or requests of enterprise IT.

Ironically, one new technology that Apple seemed determined not to discuss in broad enterprise or business environments is iBeacon, the Bluetooth LE proximity technology that Apple launched in its U.S. retail stores last month. Instead, iBeacon remarks focused exclusively on retail and deployments in major sports venues.

It's also worth noting that Apple sold significantly more iPads (26 million) during the quarter than the number of PCs shipped by any individual company. According to Gartner, Lenovo led PC manufactures shipping about 14.9 million units. That, along with continuing contraction of the PC market, definitely shows that the iPad is the primary post-PC device in both the consumer and business markets, at least for now.

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