As a company, Apple has always been associated with the more creative aspects of the technology world. A large, and vocal, adoption by creative types – from music producers to graphic designers to journalists and authors – led to high-end software being created almost exclusively for OS X. This in turn created a niche surrounding the ecosystem: high-priced, but elegant, hardware with unique software geared towards arts-based crafts.
With the introduction of the iPad, Apple looked to change this image, moving towards a more enterprise-friendly standing. Tim Cook boasted on an earnings call that 98% of all Fortune 500 companies use the iPad in their business, essentially ripping the heart out of the netbook market as it went. Over a five year period, the iPad become a $5 billion (around £3 billion, AU$5.4 billion) business with 300,000 apps appearing on the App Store specifically designed for the iPad, many of them focused on utility or productivity functions.
The rumour mill is currently swirling with talk of a larger 12.9-inch iPad which would place Apple in direct competition with Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 for screen size, undercutting the MacBook Air considerably. While Apple hasn't followed Microsoft's merging of operating systems – the distinction between iOS and OS X is still clear, despite many iOS features appearing on OS X – it's likely that a larger iPad would reduce the sales of the MacBook Air, especially the smaller, and cheaper, 11-inch model. Microsoft recently brought the Office suite to iPad, lending even more credibility to the idea that Apple is interested in opening the iPad up to being a content production device, rather than a content consumption one.
A larger, 12.9-inch iPad would include iOS 8, the next update to Apple's iOS software found on the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, which is expected to be rolled out in September following the announcement of a new iPhone – possibly called the iPhone 6 – on September 9.
iOS 8 is the next step on from iOS 7, which introduced a lot of enterprise-friendly features to the mobile operating system, a list of which can be found in Apple's documentation – leaving no doubt that Apple is committed to enterprise and business customers. A business that can bulk-order a larger iPad to give to executives, managers and so on in meetings is big business for Apple.
Services like AirPlay, which enables an iPad to wirelessly stream its screen to an Apple TV, which costs about £99 – much less than a projector – help Apple's case massively and have been emulated, in part, by Google with the Chromecast, and Samsung. While all of this is currently possible with an iPad Air, or even the iPad mini, having the extra two or three inches of screen real-estate lends even more legitimacy to the idea of content creation on the move.
ARM up the MacBook Air
In other areas of hardware, Apple is also moving forward at pace. Rumours have been circulating for some time that an ARM-based version of the MacBook Air is in the works, creating what would essentially be a MacBook Air with the internals of the iPad. Apple has always passively refused to offer its own keyboard case for the iPad – although it does allow third-parties to build them – and an ARM-based MacBook Air could be the reason: why cannibalise sales of the laptop by offering a similar experience on the iPad, likely for cheaper?
An ARM-based MacBook Air would, even more than an iPad, be a big seller with enterprise and businesses. Such an offering would boast the ease of use of OS X – including the availability of full desktop apps – paired with the hardware combination of the MacBook Air and iPad at a cheaper price point.
Safe and secure
Apple has also incrementally upgraded OS X over recent years in terms of enterprise functions. The trope of OS X being extra secure when compared to Windows has always been valid, and Apple has played this up when selling Macs to businesses. A world largely free from malware and viruses is appealing to any large IT department.
While OS X may currently be a rare sight in any big enterprise, there are various signs that the uptake is increasing, especially in more boutique businesses coming out of San Francisco and the Bay Area. Many of the web giants – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google – use Macs to get the job done, a commendation like no other.