A slight majority – or maybe a large majority – of people probably think of Apple as a manufacturer of consumer electronics.
It’s not how it started out of course, since computers were originally almost exclusively used as business machines. Hence International Business Machines, or IBM, Apple’s great motivator in its early years.
But then Apple launched the iPod, the MP3 player to end all MP3 players, which itself is ending now, though not before prompting a profound change in the company’s approach.
The success of the iPod and, later, the iPhone, led Apple to drop the word “Computer” from its name – it used to be called Apple Computer. Now it’s just Apple.
And because of the massive success of the iPod and iPhone, the vast majority of people who’d heard of the company probably always thought of it as a maker of consumer products.
But this, of course, is not the reality for the many people who may have been customers from earlier days, especially if they used Apple in the publishing and media sector to design and produce printed publications, websites and videos.
Now, the company may again be looking to the media sector for business growth, with the possibility of a major acquisition being discussed.
Some observers say that iPhone sales are slowing down. Even with the forthcoming launch of the latest model, iPhone 8, it seems that most people on Earth who need a smartphone have already got one.
Sales of iPads and other Apple devices and hardware are also growing slowly. It’s the sort of growth most businesses might be happy with, but Apple shareholders and market analysts seem to expect the good times to continue forever.
There may be some growth from taking market share from competitors, but the exponential growth which Apple is used to by creating essentially new markets is probably not going to be there any more.
Now, it may be more rewarding to concentrate on the install base of more than a billion mobile devices using its operating system iOS.
To that end, the company has agreed a partnership with Accenture to explore ways to entrenching iOS as a platform for business.
The first “killer app” was probably an accountancy application of some sort, and it’s what accelerated the growth of computers in business.
So it’s fitting that Apple turns to an accountancy firm to strengthen its position in the enterprise sector.
Accenture – which is a management consultancy now, rather than an accountancy firm – says it specialises in digital transformation to help companies unlock new revenue streams, increase productivity, improve customer experience and reduce costs. It has more than 400,000 clients in more than 100 countries.
The company will establish what it calls “a dedicated iOS practice” within Accenture Digital Studios in various locations around the world, and Apple experts will be co-located with the practice.
Apple devices installed with iOS are already used by millions of businesses, and the two companies are looking to help enterprise clients “transform” how they engage with customers using iPhone and iPad.
The experts working in the practice will include visual and experience designers, programmers, data architects and scientists, and hardware and software designers.
Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, said: “Starting 10 years ago with iPhone, and then with iPad, Apple has been transforming how work gets done, yet we believe that businesses have only just begun to scratch the surface of what they can do with our products.
“Both Apple and Accenture are leaders in building incredible user experiences and together we can continue to truly modernize how businesses work through amazing solutions that take advantage of the incredible capabilities of Apple’s technologies.”
Pierre Nanterme, Accenture’s chairman and CEO, said: “Based on our experience in developing mobile apps, we believe that iOS is the superior mobile platform for businesses and are excited to be partnering with Apple.
“By combining Accenture’s vast digital capabilities and industry expertise with Apple’s market leadership in creating products that delight customers, we are in a perfect position to help our clients transform the way they work.”
It’s probably too early or too difficult to describe in simple terms what the end result will be from an enterprise’s point of view.
But Apple says it offers new tools and services in iOS will tap into Accenture’s digital and analytical capabilities.
The solutions may also incorporating products and services from other Apple partners, such as SAP, Cisco, and even IBM. But Apple’s partnership with Deloitte – an Accenture rival – may not always be part of an Accenture package.