2 min read

Pushing Apple into the enterprise mainstream

Tech Data's new Apple Lab highlights the growing VAR opportunity around Apple's offerings

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) isn’t all about iPods and iPhones anymore. While Apple has long been considered a consumer player, more businesses are starting to take Apple seriously. In Canada, Synnex has had a specialty in Apple – but the market, until recently, remained fairly niche. That appears to be changing.

Tech Data is now pushing Apple, to the point where it’s developed an Apple Lab in Clearwater, Fla. so resellers can get their hands on Apple-related technology. Why this sudden interest (and investment)? Tech Data says it’s seeing an increase in sales of Apple products, such as the MacBook and iMac – at a time when the industry is experiencing declining notebook and desktop sales.

But what makes Tech Data’s Apple Lab different from Apple’s trendy retail stores, which despite the recession always seem to be jam-packed, even on a Monday morning? While there will likely be some overlap, most business owners or IT managers aren’t going to walk into an Apple retail store to buy virtualized storage for their Mac environment – and that’s one area where the channel will have an edge.

Tech Data says it’s seeing more interest in server and storage offerings, as well as third-party solutions. The 450-square-foot lab will showcase enterprise products, such as Apple’s Xserve line of rackmount servers, and third-party solutions such as Drobo storage products from Data Robotics and Parallels virtualization technology. Other vendors include Altec Lansing, BakBone, Canon, Qlogic, Tandberg Data, Verbatim and Western Digital, to name a few.

Tech Data is also pushing vertical solutions – another area where the channel will have an edge over Apple retail stores. This could include everything from desktop virtualization, to IP video surveillance, to digital signage, to point of sale, to SANs, to mobility.

This comes at a time when another retail player may enter the competitive mix: Walmart. The big-box retailer is currently revamping the electronics departments in 3,500 of its U.S. stores, which will include “in-store boutiques” for brands such as Apple and Nintendo. Rumour has it these boutiques will eventually carry Macs.

Like Apple’s retail stores, there may be some overlap, but it shouldn’t affect enterprise or vertical markets that resellers would be targeting – at least not directly.

When it comes to branding, Apple is savvy and strategic – most likely, it would sell lower-end items, such as netbooks, through Walmart, so it wouldn’t compete directly with Apple retail stores. This could also open up markets for Apple in rural areas that don’t have access to Apple retail stores.

But how will this affect the channel? If Walmart starts selling Macs, it may increase competition in the small business sector, but it also means Apple would increase its exposure and overall customer base – which resellers could then target with third-party solutions. And this, in time, could help Apple move from niche to mainstream in the enterprise.