Apple launches federal integrator strategy

Apple Corp. is quietly launching partnerships with large and small prime contractors to chase enterprise information system projects. Who are the early adopters?

Apple Corp. is looking to take a larger bite out of the government IT pie.

The company recently launched a program to formalize relationships with systems integrators and sell its products — chief among them, the iPad tablet computer and the iPhone — on an enterprise level in the government and commercial markets.

One of those systems integrators is Agilex Corp. of Chantilly, Va., a 3-year-old firm that is Apple’s first government-focused contractor in the program, said Tim Hoechst, chief technology officer of Agilex.

“Apple has a new program they have created only in the last few months that they call their authorized systems integrator program,” he said. “It’s new for Apple to have relationships with systems integrators. That’s a very enterprise concept and it underlines their move to be able to support the enterprise, and so they created this program and their goal was to sign up companies as partners in several different categories, small systems integrators and some large systems integrators.”

Ostensibly among the large systems integrators is Unisys Corp. A Unisys official declined to discuss the details of its arrangement with Apple. The company released the following statement to Washington Technology: “As a systems integrator, Unisys has many relationships with equipment providers. We can confirm that Unisys has a systems integrator relationship with Apple in the U.S. enterprise space and we look forward to working with them…. As this relationship is still in its early stages, we cannot provide further specifics at this time.”

Apple is “pursuing a wide variety of systems integrators to be part of this, and Unisys is clearly among those that have part of this,” Hoechst said.

Apple did not respond to Washington Technology’s requests for comment.

Shawn McCarthy, research director for IDC Government Insights, described Unisys’ initiative with Apple as a “smart move,” although he added “it’s tough to know what it will mean in the long term.”

“All sorts of business arrangements and business deals are announced all the time, but whether they are leveraged into something really productive is obviously up to the parties involved,” he said. “What Unisys provides is that it fills a slot where Apple was maybe a little bit behind the curve. If you have [a company that] can sell, install and support — especially support — Apple products, that’s a good thing because Apple is not as known for its support for the long term of its own products.”

McCarthy said the biggest chunk of government IT spending currently is going into IT services, not hardware and software. “So in order to sell to the government, you have to play nicely with the system integrators, and Apple realized that, just like most other" vendors, he said. “If you look at most of the major hardware and software vendors, they have multiple deals with systems integrators.”

Agilex formalized its arrangement as an authorized systems integrator with Apple about three months ago, bringing enterprise integration expertise that Apple needs to dispense its products in the government market, Hoechst said.

As a predominantly consumer-oriented company, Apple has “a great deal of expertise in their products, but they don’t necessarily have the background in enterprise information systems,” he said. “They are relying on us to uncover all the ways in which Apple technologies can be leveraged inside big enterprises.”

Mobile technologies are stirring “a tidal wave” of interest among government enterprise customers, and Apple’s products are well-suited to meet that demand, Hoechst said.

“We see an enthusiasm in government as it relates to the iPhone but now even more with the iPad,” he said. “Our customers [want to] make these things work in their missions…where their mobile workforce is enabled by them.”

Hoechst said that his company is working on several agency projects with Apple mobile products that are still in the early stages. Agencies “are starting to build out prototypes, proofs of concept and early test cases of applications that are mission-oriented, and we are working on several of our markets,” including the health care, national security and intelligence communications sectors, he said.

One project, for example, involves using iPads to get health information to care providers, Hoechst said. “It’s very much about testing the water,” he added.

Agilex also is committed under its partnership with Apple to deploying Apple products in its own business processes, Hoechst said.

“In becoming a partner we committed to supporting Apple technologies — their Macintoshes and mobile devices — on our networks, that [for example] we would have folks inside our business who are trained to do system administration because this is not just about the iPhone. It’s about all of Apple’s products, and we want to make sure that we are supporting Apple in our own business and not just in the business of our customers,” he said. “We want to make sure we have all the required expertise to serve our common customers.”

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