Can Apple find the same success in the enterprise market as it has in the consumer market? If recent results and the confidence of its CEO are any indication, maybe it can.

During an interview at the BoxWorks 2015 conference in San Francisco yesterday, Apple chief Tim Cook [pictured; Credit: Box] said the company’s enterprise sales generated $25 billion over the past 12 months, making up about 14 percent of the company's revenue for that period. And that doesn’t even account for people who bring their own Apple smartphones and tablets to work.

"We started many years ago, but kept it quiet, building enterprise features into our software because we realized that people don't want to carry two phones with them," Cook told Aaron Levie, CEO of content management firm Box.

Working Smart

Cook said that the growing emphasis on Apple’s business market shouldn’t surprise anyone. He talked about a marketplace that has changed from one where consumer and enterprise products were usually separate to one where they’re often the same.

Cook’s point was that even though mobile devices are generally used for basic tasks in the enterprise setting, as a leading mobile vendor, Apple is situated to take advantage once those devices can handle more complex work tasks. Even so, at the moment there are only "pockets" of enterprise-related mobile innovation, he said.

We reached out to Matt Eastwood, senior vice president in IDC’s Enterprise Infrastructure and Datacenter division, who told us that Apple has benefited from the market trend where consumers have decided to move from feature phones to smart devices -- with companies following suit by allowing employees to use a variety of mobile devices in their work.

"However, the next phase will be much more closely tied to the digital transformation happening inside many businesses, aka digital business models," said Eastwood. "As this digital transformation progresses, enterprises will look to differentiate in the market using apps and data, or deep analytics."

Partnerships Are Key

Apple is becoming a formidable enterprise provider largely via partnerships. Last month, the company announced a partnership with Cisco that the companies said will make life easier for iOS business users by optimizing Cisco networks for iOS devices and apps and integrating the iPhone with Cisco enterprise environments. Apple has undertaken other partnerships with enterprise-entrenched companies including IBM, Microsoft and Box.

Even as Apple tries to integrate its consumer products into the enterprise, Cook said that the company has no plans to merge its Mac operating system and its mobile operating system. Part of the reason is that the two operating systems already integrate well enough to work together. Cook pointed out that many Apple products have "hand-off" features that allow users to move between devices and end one activity on one that was started on another.

As Apple’s move toward the enterprise market continues, how devices are used will move from consumer and more into digital analytics and customer engagement workloads, according to IDC’s Eastwood. For Apple, this will require the kinds of partnerships it has cultivated with IBM and Cisco, he said.

"It also requires devices which are more enterprise-ready, such as the iPad Pro," said Eastwood. "In other words, as the mobile market continues to evolve and mature, the back-end tools will also change and Apple will need to build a more robust partner ecosystem to continue building and defending their relevance in the market."