I was surprised to recently receive a voicemail from Apple. More precisely, The Apple Store in San Francisco was dialing my office phone line to see if I required any special products, business services or education. It wasn't a consumer-centric message. It was Apple for business. And it's a sign of things to come from Steve Jobs and Company. Here's why.

When I dialed Apple back, they asked me how my iPad and MacBook Pro were treating me. (I had recently purchased an iPad during a trip to San Francisco.) Moreover, Apple thanked me for leveraging their products within our small business. I pointed out that we also run Windows and Linux across a range of PCs... But that didn't deter Apple. The sales and support representative pointed out that Apple offers a range of education services and sales promotions for small business co-owners like me.

I was impressed. And frankly, I think it's a sign of things to come.

MSPs and the Mac: More than a Niche?

Plenty of folks still consider Apple a consumer company. But look around and listen up. During the recent Kaseya Connect User Conference in Las Vegas, Kaseya President Mark Sutherland stated: “Every business has a Mac or two or 20 in them. Macs are a first-class citizen in the Kaseya world.” More and more MSP-centric software companies are making similar statements. A few MSPs in the audience were using Macs during Sutherland's keynote. And plenty more MSPs are carrying iPads.

Some MSPs -- such as Forget Computers -- focus exclusively on the Mac. But if I was an MSP looking for an Apple opportunity, I'd focus on Apple-centric mobility services: Helping customers to deploy and manage their iPhones, iPads and MacBooks.

Of course, Apple has never earned high grades for channel partner programs. But there are anecdotal signs of progress. Ingram Micro, for instance, recently launched a cross-platform digital signage strategy that involves both Mac and Windows environments. And Apple Stores are hosting seminars across North America for small business owners.

Apple remains a niche player in the MSP market. But the niche is growing. And I suspect Apple's business team will continue dialing customers like me to see where small business is heading next...

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