Apple's iPad announcement last week was good news for carriers looking to sell mobile services to enterprises, which will enjoy new security features that make the devices more business-ready.
But last week's iPad announcement was a bit of a puzzling yawner for Apple enthusiasts (like me) who pant and drool over every detail about new gear from Cupertino. The iPad Air 2 gets a speed bump and is a bit thinner than its predecessor. Both the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3 get support for Touch ID security and the new Apple Pay service. Nice, but not reasons for consumers to upgrade. (See iPad Air 2 Lets Users Switch Carriers Any Time.)
Touch ID support is the only new feature of the iPad mini 3 (well, it also now comes in gold, which its predecessors didn't, but oh, come on). It's otherwise the same machine as last year's model. And yet the new iPad mini has as starting price $100 higher than the previous model, which is still being sold.
That's why, when I ordered a new iPad mini last week, I went for last year's model, not this year's -- the configuration I wanted had a price differential of $150. I'm not willing to pay that much for Touch ID.
But I'm not the target customer for the new iPads; the target customers are business IT specialists. And those IT folks will love the new iPads, according to Charles Arthur, technology editor at The Guardian.
Enterprises frequently require their users to type in 10-digit passwords to access email and other enterprise apps. That's a pain for business users, who'll be happy to just tap with a finger to unlock their devices most of the time. It's less of a big deal for consumers, who use weaker four-digit passwords or none at all. Enterprises can also link Touch ID to custom enterprise apps -- use Touch ID once to unlock the device, and again to run a particular application, Arthur explains, commenting:
That’s certainly going to be important for Apple. With iPad sales having fallen year-on-year for the past nine months as the tablet market bifurcates, it needs to look to vertical markets and business for fresh growth where price isn’t so important.
Apple Pay, Apple's wireless payment system due to launch today, is the other big benefit for enterprises in the new iPads, says Arthur. Already supported in the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Touch ID support now brings Apple Pay to the iPad.
Android phones have had mobile payment for a long time, but it hasn't taken off, partly because retail points of payment don't support NFC payments. That's changing as a series of credit card attacks require US payment providers to support the "chip-and-pin" technology already standard in Europe (and Canada), Arthur notes, adding:
Apple executives have indicated to me that they think that their timing on this is just right -- and in business, it’s often timing that matters more than just technology.
Also, mobile wallets require partnerships with big businesses, and Apple is brilliant at forging those kinds of partnerships. Apple has signed up more than 500 banks for Apple Pay, as well as major retailers such as Starbucks, PetSmart, Foot Locker, Walt Disney World, Duane Reade, Macy's, Walgreens, Petco, Whole Foods -- lots of big, recognizable names, probably including one or two that you shop at regularly. And Apple happens to own a big, successful retail chain in which to use Apple Pay -- its own Apple Stores, Arthur notes.
Mobile is a strong driver of demand for new carrier services by enterprise customers, who require more flexibility and coverage for mobile workers. Mobile also drives demand for SDN and NFV, as those technologies provide the agility enterprises need to provision services on the fly for new mobile applications. Carriers should be cheered by the new iPads, even though they won't run out and buy them for consumer use.
(And is that the UPS delivery I hear? No, darn it -- just my ears deceiving me cruelly.)