Photograph by Jin Lee — Bloomberg via Getty Images
By Barb Darrow
September 9, 2015

It was probabIy no coincidence that Microsoft launched its Surface Enterprise Initiative with Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Accenture and others the day before Apple unveiled its long-rumored business-focused iPad Pro. Microsoft’s latest alliance with its hardware buddies aims to push Windows 10-based tablets into business accounts, the same business accounts that will likely give the iPad Pro a look.

Face it, Apple’s devices had already made good inroads into corporate accounts long before Apple(AAPL)launched its collaboration with IBM (IBM) in 2014 and then with Cisco (CSCO). The idea of these partnerships is to make iPads/iPhones top-notch corporate citizens, although it’s as clear as mud from this press release what that actually means in practice.

Earlier this decade, the wildly popular iPads and iPhones were largely blamed (credited?) for the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) boom, whereby workers just started using their personal devices for work—often in defiance of corporate guidelines. But with Apple now at least tacitly acknowledging the need to target business users, if only by buddying up around with enterprise IT companies, Microsoft felt the need to ramp up its Surface business push.

And, for all their woes, hardware companies like HP(HPQ) and Dell know how to sell hardware to businesses. Interestingly, the HP exec announcing that company’s participation in the Surface initiative was Mike Nash, a former Microsoft corporate vice president.

Reached for comment, a Microsoft spokeswoman said via email that the Surface Enterprise Initiative was meant to “extend the great momentum we’ve had with Surface in the enterprise and address the demand from enterprise customers for Surface and Windows 10.”

To be fair, the iPad/iPhone combo is not infallible. Good Technology’s quarterly mobility report showed that among 6,200 organizations representing over a half a million devices, the share of enterprise devices running Apple iOS dipped in the second quarter, its second sequential decline. From the report:

iOS retained the top spot for device activation … however, its overall market share dropped for the second straight quarter, falling from 72% to 64%, its lowest showing to date. Both Android and Windows surged with Android growing from 26% to 32% and Windows at 3%. Windows Phone remained unchanged at 1%.

But back to the Surface Enterprise Initiative: Given that HP and Dell, both long-time Microsoft hardware partners that were irked by Microsoft’s decision three years ago to get into the hardware business, it’ll be interesting to see how this strategy works out. Both hardware vendors, after all, have their own laptops and tablets to peddle.

But then again, their internal squabbles aside, these companies have one thing in common: Fear of Apple.

For more on the new iPad Pro see the video:


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