Five years ago not many people, not even the heads of giant corporations, could have predicted the huge success that Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) would enjoy, not only in the consumer market, but also as its devices -- the iPhone and the iPad -- made their way onto corporate networks.  It wasn’t even something that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs had predicted. But Apple has been building on that success. And although the company isn’t known as one that is particularly channel friendly, more MSPs and VARs are considering partnering with Apple, in some way or another.

It figures. Go to any partner conference these days and the vast majority of IT service providers are carrying iPhones and iPads.  That’s in spite of the fact that resellers can’t even resell iPhones. It’s no wonder there’s a resurgence in interest in partnering with Apple.

Personally I’ve heard of a handful of new Apple reseller partners over the past year or two. And while one told me his company was recruited to the Apple partner program, another told me he got in by working connections within the Cupertino-based company. “You have to know someone,” he said. Meanwhile, Apple quietly started a partner program for system integrators with Unisys as one of the first to join in 2010.

Then down in Florida last fall at the HTG Peer Group conference, HTG members were pitched on joining the Apple Consultants Network by Apple iPhone and iPad Channel Development Manager Francois Daumard. Daumard joined Apple in May 2011 after spending years at Microsoft. HTG Peer Group members were also offered training to achieve the Apple Mobility Technical Certification.

That’s not something that would have happened five years ago, the same year that Steve Ballmer scoffed at the prospects of Apple’s new iPhone and Daumard was serving as senior manager of distribution channel marketing at Microsoft.  But look at how many MSPs are carrying iPhones today versus how many MSPs are carrying Windows Phone 7 devices – nearly all of them. I haven’t seen anyone carrying a Windows Phone 7 device, actually.

What’s next for MSPs and Apple? MSPs will be called upon, increasingly, to configure and secure Apple devices and make sure data that needs to stay private, for compliance reasons or other reasons, stays private and can be locked down and wiped if left in a bar in California like an Apple iPhone prototype has been.