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Cloud Add-ons: Coming to an Apple Store Near You

Nov 6th 2015
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At the Apple store in Houston, Texas on Wednesday, Australian add-on developer ServiceM8 staged a demonstration of its field service application.

This Apple spotlight is an early prototype of a new initiative that will see Apple move into the business and accounting software market through partnerships with developers of mobile apps for business. The emerging Apple mobility partner program has been evolving throughout 2015, with the first hints coming at June's Xerocon in Denver, when Xero CEO Rod Drury trumpeted his company's partnership with the Californian technology giant.

Xerocon also saw a “retail revolution” demo staged by Deputy and US point-of-sale add-on developer Vend. This, too, was an early prototype of the spotlight concept, which is designed to showcase business uses for iPhones and iPads.

In August, the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple's CFO had mentioned the partner program in investor calls in April and July, and that the number of partners had grown to more than 40.

Many of those involved in the project are reluctant to speak too openly about the program for fear of incurring the wrath of Apple's highly controlled PR machinery. But from conversations with partner developers exhibiting at QuickBooks Connect in San Jose, California, this week, the program is international in scope and is likely to spread from North America to Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.

The Wall Street Journal reported that as part of the exercise, Apple is putting its mobility partners through their paces to ensure that their products meet its exacting user-experience standards.

Terence Sweeney, chief marketing officer at payments processor Flint, told AccountingWEB: â€œIt's at that stage where Apple is not ready to announce the program publicly. If they were, you would have seen a lot more information. But we can confirm we are part of the program.

“Apple makes beautiful software and understands how people use their products,” Sweeney continued. â€œThere are no formal requirements, but the program gives us access to engineers and user-experience designers. It's collaborative. I would describe it as a very open, good partnership. They're very good.”

Deputy's Russell Kibbee also confirmed that his company had been asked to stage demos at Apple stores: “They want to be neutral and don't recommend tools, but asked us to show what's possible and they'll bring small business customers along.”

Alexis Prenn, CEO of Receipt Bank, was not convinced that retail staff would be able to understand business requirements. “The majority of small businesses use accountants and bookkeepers. Are they really going to sit in an Apple store and make a decision about accounting software?” he asked.

“I wouldn't count Apple out,” answered Sweeney. “A Fortune 500 CIO won't go to the Apple store to buy business software, but a lot of other small and medium-sized company owners will. Apple is transforming how they look at the business. I wouldn't be surprised at what they do â€“ it could be a great place to get business software.”


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