Apple to Introduce Professional iCloud Business Suite

I agree with CCS Insight that Apple already has the building blocks to deliver its own enterprise productivity suite built around iWork and iCloud. It seems strange that he hasn’t provided them yet.

Apple Business Services

CCS Insight analysts are hosting an annual forecasting event – 2022 and beyond – and, among a wide selection of exciting future possibilities for Apple, say:

“Apple’s service unit has grown steadily over the past few years. In 2Q21, it represented more than 20% of total revenue and recorded annual growth of 33%. The strength of unity gives the company growing confidence as a web service provider, and it launches a productivity suite, based on iWork and iCloud, as a service for small businesses that are less well served by Microsoft and more frequently use Google Workspace.

What could the service offer?

Take email, for example. Apple’s recent introduction of domain-based email support in iCloud + for families could so easily be extended to provide a similar (and private) email service to small business users. A business would then be able to equip its staff with email access, and Apple could add the email archiving, management, and research tools that businesses need to ensure they are keep all necessary records. The integration should be cross-platform, but anyone who’s ever set up iCloud email from a Windows system knows it already is.

When it comes to iCloud Drive, why not create a white box version of the service? This could use Apple’s existing MDM solutions and existing iCloud Drive to give a business 2TB of shared iCloud storage, without trust and with one account only, for use within a business.

The recently introduced iCloud + features around phishing protection, hidden and one-time email addresses, and Safari privacy protection become icing on the cake. The fact that you can use other vendor’s storage in Drive is a big dollop of cream on top of that frosting. Existing online company archives remain at your fingertips.

What about iWork?

Productivity tools? Apple already has them. Pages, keychain, and numbers are perfectly competent alternatives to Google Docs or Office apps, but never seem to have quite caught on with the times. Most people are still collaborating on documents shared in Google Docs.

Apple has made iWork apps available in online form through its iCloud portal since 2013, but the implementation is somehow not as user-friendly as Google Docs. How can Apple at least match what is on offer with its iWork suite?

One way to turn that around would be to remove these apps from the iCloud online space to make them more accessible. These apps could (and probably should) be free to everyone, but saving work will require an account, like Docs.

What else could Apple provide?

Apple has other ways to deliver value to business users. Take augmented reality (AR). Why wouldn’t it be possible for a company employee in a factory to use their iPhone’s video camera to share an RA-like experience with a viewer?

It may not be necessary. Solutions that do this already exist. They are invaluable in technical support, but there are other tools – screen sharing, for example, which the company already offers and which themselves could be enhanced.

What about FaceTime? Apple has taken a small step towards improving this service by making it a bit easier to connect with people on other platforms. But the fact that most outward-facing company meetings are still conducted using tools from other vendors suggests onboarding would be a better route.

Could FaceTime become a Zoom plug-in? Of course, that’s not Apple’s way. But businesses talk to people using all kinds of technology, and if Cupertino was to make FaceTime part of a catalog of business services, it would have to be where the people are. And they are not there yet.

Siri could (he could, but needs work) to be another secret weapon.

Why not create some new business-focused areas in Shortcuts that can be used by a small business to shut down factory doors, count cases, or find the fastest ways to retrieve inventory? And the Matter? Can the Matter IoT standard eventually encompass existing industrial IoT systems? And if possible, will Apple be able to extend Siri support to automated systems already in place in factories? Or is it an opportunity for others to reflect?

Apple is a company

Look at it this way. Apple is already in the business. At one point, Macs made up 23% of all PCs purchased by business users, and this trend continues. Over and over, we learn that Apple products are almost always the most popular picks in business choice schemes. Apple’s Net Promoter and Customer Satisfaction scores show the word is spreading. While I know many deny it and many others resist it, Apple is already in the business – and its reach is growing.

She now has the ability to build and deliver new business-focused services to support these business clients. Most of the solutions it already has just need to be modified and extended to meet specific needs. (Apple is already doing this with the introduction of PivotTables in Numbers.)

Will it do it next year, as CCS Insight suggests? In my experience, Apple usually doesn’t move that fast. But the opportunity for Cupertino’s business services continues to grow, one enterprise Mac, iPad or iPhone deployment at a time.

What about AI?

That’s before even considering how Apple could use the neural engine inside its processors to add some AI to support existing business processes. How can Siri Suggestions become a full-fledged system for business process automation? On this last notion, you might also ask: is this something that Apple can already (in private) supply, or should we all keep a watchful eye on the next batch of acquisitions it makes?

iCloud for business? Why not?

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Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

Mary H. Martino