Back when the iPhone 4S was announced in October 2011 a lot of folks were left somewhat underwhelmed. For a number of reasons, as explained in "iPhone 4S: People, It's a Very Cool Device!
" Mobile Enterprise disagreed with that lukewarm reception it initially received. As financial results announced last week demonstrated, the iPhone 4S has proven to be a unique game changer - this time around in terms of the sheer number of devices that were bought during the holiday season. Adding Sprint to the lineup at the time it did was clearly a good move on Apple's part.
We don't need to repeat all the financial numbers again. But let's highlight the two numbers that stand out as amazing: Apple now has an astounding $97B in the bank, and for the quarter it reported its numbers it outsold HP, in terms of pure computing devices, topping its sale of traditional PC devices by several million units. When Apple's China Mobile deal kicks in it will add huge additional numbers. China Mobile is the largest wireless carrier on the planet, with 650 million subscribers. Roughly 20 percent of them are high end mobile buyers, which translates into a new market potential of 130 million potential new buyers.
With the iPhone 4S (and of course the iPad 2) Apple has ended up setting the smartphone and tablet "appeal" bar so high for its own devices that it is going to be - we believe - impossible to surpass any time in the next 18 to 24 months. As we anticipated in our earlier story, Apple's holiday strategy was flawlessly played. It won the market with a phone that was somewhat misunderstood and labeled as underwhelming while going directly head to head with the competition's best efforts: Motorola's new Droid RAZRs and Samsung's highest end collection of Galaxy devices.
It is now Apple's turn to deliver its next generation of devices.
What's in Store?
First, we can certainly expect to see an LTE iPhone. Apple has been very wary of LTE for the simple reason of power consumption and potentially unsatisfactory user experiences with battery life. That said we don't believe Apple can wait any longer to deliver an LTE device. Nokia (with its soon to be released Lumia 900), Motorola and Samsung are all on board with LTE, and Apple can't let them take front runner positions for very long.
We can also anticipate that the next generation "large" iPad will have both LTE and a retinal-quality display. A seven inch iPad is also very possible but we believe that this is likely to prove a lower cost, consumer-focused device that will have enough capability and the right price point to compete with Amazon's Kindle, but not have the necessary features to work in the enterprise.
As part of an LTE-focused suite of new products we also anticipate that both next generation iPhones and iPads are likely to sport new battery technology and extended battery life. Motorola has already started advertising extended battery life as a differentiator for its Droid devices, and Apple will need to do the same.
The Enterprise Beckons
As we noted in our article, "Apple Begins to Dominate on BlackBerry's Enterprise Turf - Is it Game Over for RIM?
" there is a strong appetite for Apple devices growing in the enterprise space. We've detailed the reasons why in that article. The arguments made there for Apple's continuing enterprise growth are substantially strengthened by the number of new iPhones and iPads Apple sold in the last quarter. A great many of these will find their way to the enterprise, and demand to put them to use will continue to escalate unabated.
What we also anticipate happening in the enterprise is a continuing escalation of wireless data usage, a significant amount of which will be driven by a substantial increase in mobile-driven video conferencing. LTE, due to inherent low latency and wide bandwidth, is a far more efficient wireless environment for delivering a crisp video conferencing experience and for downloading massive amounts of data (as, for example, Eaton Manufacturing does through its mobile field application
For Apple to be able to deliver an enterprise user experience that is second to none on these fronts it needs to deliver LTE capability on both iPhone and iPad. To a large degree video conferencing crispness trumps (or will soon trump) overall battery life as far as the enterprise user experience is concerned. Apple being Apple however, we expect to see both LTE support in its next generation of products and we expect to see new battery technology to support it.
Apple has staged a passive enterprise victory to date. The workforce brings the devices in, and enterprises have had very little choice but to support them. Aside from supporting ActiveSync and providing some security capabilities, Apple hasn’t had to develop an aggressive and specific enterprise strategy.
With LTE in the equation Apple will need to step up its enterprise game. Will Apple come around to offering the enterprise some specific attention? With Samsung, HTC, LG, Motorola, Nokia, Microsoft, and Research in Motion all converging for enterprise showdowns with a variety of excellent mobile devices, it will need to.
For now, the company can bask a bit in the glow of an amazing holiday season. But we'll be looking forward to the emerging LTE battle and how Apple ultimately chooses to engage in it.