Why iOS Could Become the Enterprise OS of the Millennial Generation

on September 21, 2015

For the majority of my life, Windows and the Mac have been the operating systems that have dominated my personal computing experiences. iOS and Android only recently have become supplemental operating systems I use in my smartphones and tablets. But I believe there is a changing of the “OS Guard” happening as Gen Y and Gen Z users grow up and become millennials and move into the business sector. The tech tools they use and how they use them will be quite different than the generation before.

This younger generation does use PCs. However, they actually spend the most time on their iPhones and iPads and Macs are mostly relegated to serious productivity projects. More importantly, they know iOS inside and out as they spend much more of their day in this operating system then they do on any computer they have. I believe Apple understands this better than anyone and their most recent iPad Pro is a nod to this trend. More importantly, I see Apple using this to drive millennials towards making iOS their OS of choice as they move into their careers and new jobs. In fact, within 5-7 years, I suspect Windows will not even be of interest to this younger set, as iOS will be the device operating system that dominates their work and personal lifestyles.

Tim Cook told the audience at the recent launch event that the iPad Pro is “the clearest expression of our vision of the future of personal computing.” Steve Jobs basically said the same thing at the original iPad launch when he called the PC a truck and tablets cars. Cook also said in a Buzzfeed interview recently, “I think that some people will never buy a computer because I think now we’re at the point where the iPad does what some people want to do with their PCs”. 

I believe Apple’s goal with the iPad Pro is to make it the next major tool they provide to all, especially millennials, and make it the logical device they take with them when they join the workforce. An iPad Pro with a keyboard and iOS will handle the majority of what they need in their job. And, thanks to Microsoft, even Office on iOS and hundreds of other business class apps are being created for iOS each month. Even if they bring their Macs with them, Apple’s continuum strategy makes it easy to go between a Mac and an iPad Pro and work seamlessly on either without skipping a beat. It is not a coincidence that IBM has ported over 100 of their enterprise-class mobile management and security tools to iOS. With the iPad Pro, Apple is poised to bring the Apple ecosystem to the business market in a dramatic way and it will be the millennials who drive it into mainstream businesses over the next 5 years.

If this happens, it will have major ramifications for the PC industry. If the millennials, who will be a major force in the business world within the next 5-7 years, opt for iOS, what does that mean for Microsoft? It is unfortunate Steve Ballmer said the iPhone would be a flop and did not give the Microsoft teams the support they needed for them to do their own competitive product immediately after the iPhone came out. Getting millennials to use Windows Phones could have ensured a Windows future. While Windows will still have life while my generation is in charge of the business tools, when millennial numbers grow in the ranks of business users and take over the IT management jobs dominated by my generation today, will Windows even be relevant in business if iOS is the dominant OS for this age group?

And how will this impact Dell, HP, and Lenovo — whose financial lifeblood is tied to Windows today? Millennials making iOS the dominant OS over time would surely impact their current business model. This won’t happen fast. But if iOS is the dominant OS for Gen Y, Gen Z and millennials and they are our future workforce, within 5-10 years Apple could be the one that dominates all aspects of the business and consumer markets.

Apple is crazy like a fox with this strategy. 

One could say the iPhone and iPad with iOS is laying the groundwork for Apple to eventually own, not only the consumer market but, over time, the business market too. Steve Jobs was the master planner of this strategy. While he lost out to Bill Gates and the Windows crowd for the first thirty years, if Apple executes this plan as I think they will, Jobs’ team could dominate the world of personal computing over the next 30 years. Although Tim Cook has been charged to execute this strategy, make no mistake — Jobs was the architect. From the beginning of the Mac era for Apple, Jobs had hoped and probably expected it to become the business tool of choice when compared to a DOS-based PC back in 1984. However, he misjudged Microsoft’s ability to adapt to a GUI based world and the PC continued to reign in business for decades.

Jobs knew he lost my generation and the Gen Xers but understood that, if he could get the generation after them hooked on his newest OS, iOS could someday become the cornerstone of his broader strategy to undermine Windows in business and slowly but strategically create the hardware platform Apple could use to drive iOS well beyond its consumer base. The iPad Pro is their first serious tool at the heart of this strategy — move iOS into mainstream business. You can bet Apple has other hardware platforms in the works that support this direction. Perhaps a clamshell with touch using iOS is not far around the corner.

The Mac will still be an important part of this strategy too, but I think they are content with its position changing and letting the iPad Pro and future iOS products be the tool millennials and the generation after them carry when they join the workforce. That is why their continuum software is more strategic to their longer-term strategy than any of us expected.

It is clear to me Apple is not content with just owning the consumer market, something that was a key part of Jobs’ goal since he rejoined the company in 1997. But make no mistake, Jobs wanted to own the entire market and it appears to me that, by getting this younger generation hooked on iOS, Cook and his team just might be able to deliver.