The future of enterprise: Apple, GE look to consumer tech

When asked about the future of enterprise technology, the chief executives from two of America's largest companies agree that it is personalization.

According to a recent New York Times (NYT) report, Tim Cook of Apple and Jeffrey Immelt of General Electric forecast that business technology will take a lesson from consumer Internet by using data to tailor the tech experience for businesses.  

Sinu noted in past blogs that Apple is aspiring to grow sales with new commitments to enterprise technology (see OS9: Apple eyes enterprise and Apple-IBM partnership promises new enterprise solutions).

Cook reaffirmed that position at a recent conference for Box, an online storage and collaboration tools company: “We want to make tools to help people change the world, and that means being in the enterprise.” 

Cook also noted that the world has changed over the past decade and "there aren't nearly as many 'consumer' and 'enterprise' products—instead, corporate and BYOD buyers just look for the best tool for the job," reported TechRepublic.

GE's Immelt endorsed that viewpoint, reports the NYT: "Industrial companies have yet to feel the benefit of the Internet the way consumers have... We’re just getting started.”

Google and Facebook deliver ads based on your recent Internet activity and social behavior, and iPhone tracks your location and can conveniently suggest local businesses. In the battle between privacy and convenience, personalization has won in consumer tech. GE and Apple seem to be betting that it will be the same for enterprise.

“We can now track every jet engine separately throughout its life,” Immelt said in the NYT report, "giving each one the machine equivalent of a Facebook page, which states where it is and how it is 'feeling,' making maintenance more efficient."

The NYT report also noted that Apple already uses personal identification and location awareness, and office apps exist today that interact with people depending on location and job status. 

But data security remains a real concern for the majority of business owners (August 2015 SurePayroll Small Business Scorecard optimism survey), and the market has responded. The Wall Street Journal reports, venture firms invested $1.2 billion in cybersecurity startups in the first half of this year. 

Even with all the new security tech companies trying to assuage their fears, the question is whether business owners will be willing to share the amount of data needed for the type of personalization Apple and GE envision. It will likely depend heavily on where the burden of liability lies when data security breaches occur. In the meantime, business owners will continue to walk a tightrope between data security and providing employees the tools and conveniences they are used to from consumer technology.