Apple’s surprising new passion

September 9, 2015, 11:00 AM UTC
reStore As Apple Inc. Appoints New Wholesale Distributors Of iPhones
An Apple Inc. logo sits on a product on display inside a re:Store premium Apple reseller in Moscow, Russia, on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013. Merlion and diHouse, computer and electronic gadget sellers, will be wholesale distributors of iPhones in Russia, Kommersant reports, citing unidentified people with knowledge of situation. Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by Andrey Rudakov — Bloomberg/Getty Images

We’re in one of those Apple moments again. There’s a tough new documentary out about Steve Jobs by the famous filmmaker Alex Gibney. In a month, the feature film by Aaron Sorkin based on Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs is due. On Wednesday, of course, the world will be glued to news out of the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, where Apple’s (AAPL) fans expect new iPhones, iPads, an Apple TV, and maybe more.

With the world’s attention focused on Apple’s much-ballyhooed attempt to get into our living rooms, I’ve been distracted instead by the incongruity of Apple’s attention to big businesses. If you believe Apple’s sincerity in going after this market, and I do, it’s a sure sign that under Tim Cook’s leadership Apple isn’t stuck anymore in the ways of Steve Jobs. You can quibble with the direction Cook is leading, but you can’t question that he’s leading.

The latest example is an announcement Apple made last week with Cisco (CSCO). The two tech giants will market Apple’s mobile devices to Cisco’s vast info-tech customer base. Tim Cook even flew to Las Vegas to appear onstage with Executive Chairman John Chambers at a Cisco sales event. Anyone who has watched Apple for even a short period of time knows this is heresy. Steve Jobs despised selling to what is known in the tech world as “the enterprise.” Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd, now co-CEO of Oracle, related in a public appearance earlier this year how Jobs spoke about his dislike for selling to businesses:

Steve told me one time, ‘I don’t want to do your job. I don’t want to have to fly and go see customers. You actually go see customers and you talk to them, and they say mean things to you. It just doesn’t sound like fun to me. In my job, customers come to see me.’

Tim Cook, on the other hand, realizes that Apple can only go so far selling to consumers. So he’s crafted alliances with IBM (IBM) and now Cisco to extend Apple’s reach. Even the language Apple and Cisco use to broadcast the initiative is sure to amuse students of their history. The two companies unveiled a “partnership to create a fast lane for iOS business users by optimizing Cisco networks for iOS devices and apps, integrating iPhone with Cisco enterprise environments and providing unique collaboration on iPhone and iPad,” the companies jointly said. The funny part there is that Cisco once owned the terms “iPhone” and “IOS”—before Steve Jobs steamrolled Cisco into giving them up. (I recount both episodes in my book, Inside Apple.) At the time, Cisco meekly acquiesced to Apple’s demands. Now the companies are working together.

Every now and again things really do change.

For a preview of Apple’s Sept. 9 product event, watch this video:

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