Microsoft struggles to counter iPads in the enterprise

Microsoft has been known for dominating enterprise desktops for more than 20 years. The company has released a set of guidelines for its partners to sell Windows slates, not to consumers, but the very market in which the company has been so effective in – businesses.

With the growing popularity of Apple’s iPad, which launched less than a year ago, Microsoft is trying to slow down the advancement of the Apple device in enterprises, and make sure its own products are not pushed aside.

Macs have always been around, especially in design departments and with programmers, but Windows and Office have been the most popular in enterprise settings. Now, the iPad is already generating 7 percent of the global PC market, and that’s just to consumers. As the adoption of Apple products continues to increase in the enterprise, that percentage is likely to grow.

Microsoft released a slide deck, which reveals that “end-users are driving adoption” of the iPad in enterprises. These users include high-level IT staff and executives, who drive technology decisions for their companies. Another slide shows that Windows offers diversity of form factors and input methods over the iPad, in an effort to gain loyalty from enterprise users.

Apple has already launched initiatives into enterprises, including hiring salespeople to work with carriers, such as Verizon Wireless, to sell iPads to large companies. Wall Street bank JP Morgan is already giving its investment bankers iPads, replacing previous forms of enterprise mobility.

During its fourth quarter, Apple reportedly sold 7.3 million iPads and 16.2 million iPhones, above industry predictions. The iPhone saw an 86 percent growth from 2009. If the iPad were considered a PC, then Apple would be the No. 2 computer company in the world, behind only Hewlett-Packard, according to a study by TechFlash. These staggering numbers only solidify the Apple brand’s stranglehold on mobility products.

“Enterprise customers continue to embrace iPhone, with 88 of the Fortune 100 companies and also 60 percent of the Financial Times Europe 100 companies now testing or deploying iPhone. Strong employee demand and custom app development are fueling deployments within the corporate sector. Enterprise CIOs continue to add iPhone to their approved device list worldwide,” said Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer.

Microsoft is not expected to release a true iPad competitor until 2012, putting the company further behind in the enterprise mobility space. Until then, the company is presenting its partners with a strategy to dissuade interest in Apple products. Microsoft’s partners are supposed to familiarize themselves with Windows 7 slates and talk to enterprises about security and management, where Windows has been on top.