Rumour has it: How Apple’s headphone jack removal could compromise its enterprise position


Consumers and industry pundits are already expressing frustrations upon hearing that Apple is planning to remove its headphone jack in the next iPhone. But is this simply a consumer issue? Or will it have an impact on the enterprise market as well?

The company has already been making major moves to strengthen its position within the enterprise, including partnerships in the past year with Cisco and IBM, and new enterprise-friendly features to iOS and macOS Sierra at this year’s WWDC.

As Apple tries to strengthen its position in the enterprise, it will have to deeply consider every decision it makes, both in terms of how it will impact its loyal consumer base as well as its enterprise customers. This is especially true given these two groups are becoming harder to distinguish as BYOD becomes more common among organisations and their employees.

The consumerisation of mobility and IT

Consumers and enterprises face the same pain points – if Apple goes ahead and removes the headphone jack, the cost is translated to the consumer, who would then have to purchase wireless headphones to use their devices hands free. The same goes for enterprises. This could result in backlash if companies need to buy an adapter or wireless headsets along with the phone for employees that use regular headphones.

Wireless headsets can be considerably more expensive than standard wired headphones, ranging from $50 on the low-end to $500 for very high-end wireless headphones. If companies have to purchase wireless headphones for employees, the cost of enterprise mobile programs could rise significantly due to more expensive hardware required.

My company has enterprise customers that require their employees to use hands-free devices on their phones for safety-reasons. At the moment, we send out and frequently replace reasonably-priced wired headsets. However, if the phone only supports wireless headphones via the Lighting technology, USB or Bluetooth, this customer would need to replace all of its current headsets, which could get very pricey.

Evolutionary technology doesn’t mean increased adoption

In addition to the increase in prices, the pace of adoption of these new devices will also slow significantly as they are more evolutionary, not revolutionary. Where revolutionary technologies create an immediate impact, evolutionary technology is considered more of a next step that may or may not be necessary.

For example, we are already seeing a significant decline in smartphone sales – according to Gartner, smartphone sales are down 14.4 percent globally, from 2015 to 2016. This is linked to users not replacing or upgrading their smartphones as often in previous years. This could also be in part because each new generation of smartphone is only incrementally better than the previous – no huge changes are being made to devices, making them evolutionary improvements.

Additionally, smartphone customers and companies purchasing phones for employees used to be shielded from the costs of purchasing new devices through carrier subsidies. Now, customers will likely see the costs they pay towards the device on a monthly basis, or simply have to pay up front. This forces customers to decide if they really want to upgrade and swallow the cost of the upgrade. Additional expenses like these may slow the cycle of adoption of these devices.

Balancing innovation for impact versus actual use  

Technology is evolving at breakneck speed, and the smartphone market is no exception. And while removing a headphone jack could seem like one of the more benign innovations, it will have a dramatic impact on both consumers and enterprises. Companies need to find the balance of incorporating these new innovations with the use cases they’ll receive within the workplace. In many cases, the costs could outweigh the ROI of its use.

We look forward to the future innovations companies like Apple will bring to the enterprise workforce, and continue to monitor their impact on companies and employees alike. in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their use-cases? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data Expo and Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam and explore the future of enterprise technology.

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