Time for Apple to ‘Think Different’ About Corporate IT?

June 3, 2014, 5:04 PM ET

Time for Apple to ‘Think Different’ About Corporate IT?


Apple Inc.AAPL +1.41% made clear Monday at its annual developer conference that it was opening its famously closed operating system environment in the hopes of attracting more innovative apps to its ecosystem. But these changes could make Apple devices less secure, and would seem to require an adjustment by Apple to how it relates to corporate IT departments, according to Stephen Gillett, chief operating officer at Symantec Corp.SYMC -1.05%, and former CIO of Starbucks Corp.SBUX +0.45%

The bid is clearly a way of driving more apps to the ecosystem Apple hopes to develop around a new slate of devices it’s likely to introduce this fall. It also signals a significant change with how Apple deals with the outside world. It is allowing developers deeper into its operating system than before – for example by allowing apps to interact with its onboard keyboard, fingerprint reader and cloud storage systems.

Remember how bitterly late Apple CEO Steve Jobs fought to keep Adobe SystemsInc.ADBE -0.85%’s Flash technology out of the Apple ecosystem because he considered it unreliable? Well, the days of absolute control over the end user’s experience are probably over, says Mr. Gillett.

Allowing developers deeper into the OS implies a trade-off, and Mr. Gillett argues that Apple should be open about that. “You trade access for security… They traded access to get innovation… That will come at the expense of closed-system stability and security. There was a reason [the OS] was closed before,” Mr. Gillettt said during an interview.

Apple sends bulletins to IT departments whenever it updates its operating systems, and says the next bulletin that goes out should be more detailed than usual for CIOs, and explain how changes to the OS could impact enterprise systems. “Apple has to be really smart about the bulletin. You need to give some context in the language of the CIO. IT has earned the right [to get an explanation] of how these changes will affect their ecosystem.”

According to Mr. Gillett, “Apple has been a huge antagonist to IT,” harkening back to Steve Jobs’ comment about CIOs being the “orifice” of an organization. Mr. Gillett, while still CIO at Starbucks, in September 2011 wrote that he missed the relationship he had with Apple when he was just a geeky kid. “I hope one day soon we can get back on great terms, this time with Apple and enterprise IT,” he wrote.

CIOs have done a lot to accommodate Apple in the enterprise, although to be fair Apple has done quite a bit to accommodate CIO needs for access and security controls. Mr. Gillett feels that Apple should do more to embrace CIOs and the enterprise more broadly. “I’m waiting for Tim Cook to say ‘we want to have a relationship, and no longer view you as the orifice,’” he said.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

Not everyone believes Apple has stiff-armed IT departments. Christy Wyatt, chief executive of mobility applications vendor Good Technology Corp., says Apple has “done quite a lot in the last year to enable [mobile device management].” Ms. Wyatt spoke with CIO Journal Tuesday on the sidelines of a Good customer event in New York. According to recent Good Technology report, Apple dominates device activations in the enterprise world with iOS reporting 72% of total device activations in the first quarter.  The report covers more than 5,000 organizations in 180 countries

She noted that Apple recently provided tools allowing IT departments to upload apps to mobile devices, and has given corporate IT departments more time to review upcoming changes to its iOS mobile operating system. But she allowed that “the flow of information [coming from Apple] is customized for the customer reveal.”


About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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