AT&T: 40 percent of iPhone sales are enterprise, Android 'built with a very specific focus to consumers'

It isn't just Verizon's Lowell McAdam with fascinating commentary at this Barclays Capital tech conference going down in New York this week. Ron Spears, who leads up AT&T's Business Solutions division, had some notable things to say about enterprise mobility -- specifically, the iPhone's role in taking businesses to the road, a magic trick typically associated almost exclusively with BlackBerry over the past ten years. Basically, Spears says that he's seeing extraordinary uptake on the business side with the iPhone since 2008 and the introduction of the platform's first enterprise-focused features; in fact, he claims that "four out of every 10 sales" are to enterprise users these days and that it has all but caught up to BlackBerry for the kind of modern, tight, full-featured security that your average IT department needs. On a related note, Spears says that he hasn't "seen the Android platform yet in the enterprise space," but that he figures it'll evolve over time to become "hard to ignore" to the enterprise segment. Of course, considering that AT&T has virtually no presence in the Android market at the moment, we're not surprised that he'd take a lukewarm tack -- so here's hoping that changes fast. Follow the break for more highlights of Spears' comments.

  • "So what's driving demand in the enterprise space? And those of you that have heard me before, there are three macro trends that existed three years ago, and they've only accelerated in the last three years. Businesses being globalized, the technology being virtualized, and the access to the technology being mobilized. And so all of our strategy work that we started in '06 and '07 is informed by these three trends."

  • "And with the smartphones that started to come into the market, specifically led by the iPhone in the summer of '08, the enterprise space from a mobility point of view has changed dramatically. And so today, when we think about how is all of this coming together, the convergence that everyone talked about 10 years ago was as we looked at IP networks, you were going to be able to collapse network infrastructures -- voice, data and video."

  • "Today, the technologies that are starting to come together are those that have been virtualized -- network, data centers. And then you can wrap a mobility access into the data that's basically been virtualized. And you now are starting to build a very compelling solution set for enterprises. And more and more we are seeing this solution set accelerate regardless of the particular segment. This will work as well in small business as it will in global multinationals."

  • "And we are going to mobilize everything. In the last 12 months, we've added 4 million business subscribers. We've doubled our integrated device sales. One in every two devices we sell in the enterprise space today is integrated. And what those devices are driving are the use of applications."

You mentioned mobility and clearly a lot of discussion of it and no conversation with AT&T would be complete without at least mentioning the iPhone. So, can you talk about the role you've seen the iPhone in particular playing in enterprise customers? And are there barriers to adoption that you see for the iPhone that you for example don't see for RIM, given prior experience with it?

So firstly, four out of 10 sales of the iPhone are made to enterprise users. When the iPhone came out, what most people heard in the first year from '07 to '08 was oh my God, it's not BlackBerry secure. This is not going to work on the enterprise space.

At the end of the day, it's just software. That's all it is. And by the time the 3G came out in '08 they had solved about 80% of the security issues. By the time the 3GS came out last summer, most CIOs will tell you today they have very few issues around the security that they need provided as they have come to know that RIM can do it because of the way RIM provides their solution.

So enterprises today view the iPhone as a mobile computer. It happens to have a voice application on it. But what's important is what you can do with it, and the way you can mobilize workforces, and specific parts of your workforce, not the entire workforce.

And things that it does at the executive level -- we have -- most of our monthly reporting is all built into an app that gets updated when our systems get updated, and we do an automatic fetch. And any time I want to look at where we sort of sit rom a financial point of view in ABS, it now resides on my iPhone as an app. So it starts to change the way you think about governing your business. It changes the speed with which you can make decisions.

And what the iPhone did and now has proliferated throughout the industry, so it's not the only smart phone out there, is that basically you've got a compute OS in a compute device. So it's not a voice device. It's not a single app device. It's a compute OS in a compute device. And it's the way enterprises think about it.

It is sort of the ultimate at this point in mobile computing. And it starts to allow them to make a decision like do they need laptops if they've got a field service force that needs one or two applications on a daily basis; do they need to go out and spend $1000 or $1200 for a laptop and then worry about sort of the lifecycle costs of keeping up with the laptop.

So mobile computers are changing the way enterprises think about how they provide access to information for either employees, customers, partners, supply chains. And we are at the very early stages in the enterprise space, the very early stages of watching these I call them mobile computers; you will call them integrated devices or smartphones, but they have compute capability that is -- and they can do it with a desktop-type experience because of the speed of the mobile broadband network. And when you run the fastest mobile network in the country and you can match a mobile computer to it, you are providing a terrific customer experience.

Are you seeing also interest or a similar level of acceptance related to the Android platform as well, or are we farther behind on that?

From my point of view -- I haven't seen the Android platform yet in the enterprise space. Not to say it won't come, but pretty much that platform has been built with a very specific focus to consumers. Over time, my guess is there will be an evolution that's kind of hard to ignore the enterprise space.