Deals

Not satisfied with iPhone sales, Apple aims for RIM’s share in enterprise

Some companies might call it a victory when they ship 14.1 million phones. Apple apparently takes it as a sign that it needs to barge into another company’s market space.

Apple could be making a move into the enterprise space after hiring five executives in the past year and a half that specialized in marketing Research in Motion’s BlackBerry phone, one of the most popular phones in the world for business professionals.

That shouldn’t come as any kind of surprise, as Apple has always been a bit of a silent powerhouse in the enterprise market. The iPhone has taken the lead in enterprise phone sales, if you discount RIM’s BlackBerry — which has a dominant share of the enterprise market and around 46 million customers. The iPhone 4 accounted for more than 30 percent of mobile device activations for enterprise purposes, and more than 10 percent of activations were iPads, if you discount RIM’s presence in the enterprise market.

The iPad, Apple’s tablet computer, is particularly popular among the largest companies in the world on the Fortune 100 list — about 50 percent of them are either using the iPad or are rolling it out. An analyst with Wall Street firm Piper Jaffray said Apple could probably sell 21 million iPads next year as a result of its presence in the enterprise space. Maynard Um of UBS Investment Research said earlier this month that Apple could sell up to 28 million iPads in 2011, as well.

Apple’s Mac computers are also becoming increasingly popular among enterprise users. Apple’s sales to government organizations grew 201 percent in the second quarter of this year when compared to the same quarter a year earlier. Its enterprise sales as a whole grew 50 percent in the second quarter when compared to the same quarter a year earlier – compared to an average 16 percent across all companies.

And it’s a good time to jump into the enterprise market. RIM is struggling a bit trying to comply with government requests for access to private corporate data. India, as well as a handful of other countries, threatened to ban BlackBerry services if RIM did not comply with demands to make enterprise email and messages available for government viewing in August. RIM has said time and again that it cannot physically decrypt the data. It then doubled back and said it would allow the Indian government to view that information.

So there could be some concerns about the security of the BlackBerry messaging service among corporate users that need to keep their email messages secure. Apple hasn’t publicly offered any kind of security guarantee — but there aren’t a number of countries ready to ban the phones, either. So the new hires come at a fortuitous time for Apple, when it has a chance to capitalize on RIM’s security woes.