Apple targets the enterprise: can acquisitions be far behind?

When you are already the highest valued company in the world, and you want to continue your growth trajectory, what do you do? You move into new territories. That’s why Apple is launching Watch, why Tim Cook continues to talk about TV, and why they signed the partnership with IBM to work jointly on developing business applications.

But new evidence is emerging that shows Apple is gearing up for much more aggressive campaign, partnering with other companies and building its own direct sales force, in a push to make iPhone, iPad — and maybe even Mac — the platforms of choice in today’s business sphere. Reuters reporters broke a story today about the talks that Apple has been having with CIOs across the country, learning what they want and need, and presumably planning a systematic approach to countering players like HP, SAP and Oracle. With IBM as a partner, some of those bases are covered, but it raises many questions.

Obviously, Cook and Co wants to sell hardware to the enterprise — that’s where it is making the overwhelming majority of Apple’s revenue. HP and others sell hardware, too, principally Windows and Android devices, as well as servers, printers, and so on. But Microsoft, Oracle and SAP are primarily selling applications software, some of which Apple and IBM can counter, but there is also a great deal of non-overlap.

That situation — in combination with the hundred billion plus of cash that Apple has in the bank — leads me to a semi-obvious conjecture: Apple is likely to make some acquisitions to build a suite of enterprise software tools.

If Dropbox hadn’t gotten so cozy in recent weeks with Microsoft, I’d suggest that Apple might look there. Perhaps Box instead, although both companies might be overvalued.

Slack would be a great company for Apple’s business push, with tremendous growth and an avid user community, and there are dozens of others.

Apple might what to follow the pattern of other enterprise players, and build its own stack, with various services that could be leveraged by a large ecosystem of developers, partners, and customers. But that may bring a conflict with IBM, who is trying to push the IBM cloud stack. I know it seems unthinkable, but if Cook wants to take on Microsoft, HP, SAP and Oracle, maybe he should consider acquiring IBM, whose market cap ($160 billion) is less than Apple’s cash reserves. That would be a big splash.