In late April, Apple announced its worst quarter in over a decade. The last time Apple's sales fell year-over-year was the first quarter of 2003. Sales from iPhones—which make up more than two-thirds of Apple's revenue—fell for the first time in history, while both iPad and Mac sales were essentially flat.
Apple has seen cooling consumer demand in the U.S. coming for a while. In response, the company had already shifted some of its focus to the emerging Chinese market. But a strong dollar and a weak Chinese market were not what Apple expected, leaving the company to figure out where to focus next.
Appeal of the enterprise
As consumer demand for tech slows, the enterprise market is becoming increasingly important to those that sell technology products and solutions.
"There has never been a more opportune time to develop technology and solutions that help enterprise companies innovate, operate, scale and pivot at an extremely fast pace," said Doron Gordon, founder and CEO of Samanage. "There is huge demand at the enterprise level to maintain the highest levels of service, productivity and efficiency."
"This is where the greatest opportunity lies for emerging technology," Gordon said.
Apple has already made some effort to break into the enterprise market. Last year, the company struck a partnership with IBM to jointly create apps for the workplace, while IBM employees help sell and support Apple devices with corporate clients.
Then in September, Apple and Cisco announced they were teaming up in an effort to bring more iPhones and iPads to business users. The partnership aims to help Apple's mobile devices communicate more effectively on corporate networks where Cisco gear is used.
Its most recent enterprise effort stems from a new partnership with SAP to create iOS native enterprise apps.
Such partnerships can prove advantageous on both sides, as enterprise tech companies like IBM and SAP can capitalize on Apple's market penetration. In turn, Apple can move further into the enterprise market.
Some even say the support costs of Apple devices are much lower, though the hardware costs are often higher. For example, as IBM dug deeper into its partnership with Apple, it found some surprising statistics when it comes to support. IBM said only 5% of its Apple user base called the support desk, while 40% of the company's Windows users called the company's help desks. The reduced support needs of Apple products can mean a big difference in both resources and costs for a company.
Fletcher Previn, VP of Workplace-as-a-Service at IBM said, "every Mac that we buy is making and saving IBM money."
Tip of the iceberg
Thus far, Apple partnerships like the ones with IBM, Cisco and SAP have been few and far between. Analysts say that's because companies are often reluctant to switch software vendors.
A Forrester survey of more than 4,000 office workers last year found most rely on laptops at work and that the majority of companies use applications and databases that aren't compatible with Apple's iOS.
Apple CEO Tim Cook said building business and security features into iOS has helped make inroads in enterprise, and the partnerships with IBM, Cisco and SAP are designed to help make Apple products perform better in business environments. But, Cook admits, the company still has a long way to go.
Last year, Apple said it generated $25 billion in revenue from its enterprise business, representing about 11% of its total revenue from June of 2014 to June of 2015. But that number, Cook said, is a "very small amount compared to what the opportunity is."
Apple has tried to "focus on the enterprise but over the last two years it has really not been successful," Daniel Ives, a senior analyst at FBR Capital Markets.
Apple is a unique company with specific challenges when it comes to selling to the enterprise market. But it's likely the company will continue to try to gain traction through a variety of strategies. It's too big of an opportunity to ignore, especially given the saturation that's occurred in the consumer market.
The enterprise market presents huge opportunities for other businesses, too. Gordon suggests companies that are looking to delve deeper into the enterprise market emphasize how they can help smooth some of the processes that can slow enterprise progress.
"Tech companies looking to increase their presence in the enterprise market should not only focus on developing automated solutions that streamline enterprise processes, but also building software solutions and products that can replace some of the legacy tools that are still in use by enterprise companies today," said Gordon.