Unisys confirmed last week that it reached an agreement Apple to help integrate and support its consumer products, including the iPhone and iPad, into enterprise systems for corporate and government customers.
The deal, first reported by Bloomberg News, is the latest example of third parties stepping up to make Apple's popular consumer-focused devices more manageable by the enterprise. Under the agreement, Unisys will offer its government and business customers iPhone/iPad integration services and build applications for Apple's devices tailored to the needs of governmental agencies. Unisys has already created a remote border-monitoring smartphone app for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The Unisys deal comes just weeks after Apple's most recent boast about gaining traction in the enterprise. At its recent third-quarter earnings conference call Apple execs said more than two-thirds of the Fortune 100 are testing or deploying iPads. The percentage of Fortune 500 companies allowing iPhones to access corporate networks has risen to more than 80 percent, they said, up from the 60 percent figure they touted at Apple's second-quarter earnings call three months earlier.
Just last month Hewlett-Packard introduced a cloud-based mobile device management system designed to let IT staff manage mobile devices, including iPhone/iPad, through a secure, customizable web portal. In March Sybase and SAP launched a mobile business process automation tool and CRM software for the iPhone -- Sybase Mobile Sales for SAP CRM and Sybase Mobile Workflow for SAP Business Suite -- are designed to let mobile employees access business processes from a smartphone, without having to log into a virtual private network.
"We're already seeing tremendous interest in iPad from education and, much to my surprise, from business," Apple chief executive Steve Jobs told analysts during the conference call last month. "We haven't pushed it real hard in business, and it's being grabbed out of our hands."
Apple is not just relying on third-parties like Unisys. The company is beefing up its sales force to start focusing more on businesses, said Tim Cook, Apple's chief operating officer during the earnings call. Yet Apple will continue to design its product for the consumer, who Cook credited with convincing IT departments to support Apple devices, which the company plans to continue to enhance with features for businesses, Cook added.