Can channel cash in on Apple’s enterprise bonanza?

iPadIf you think you’ve seen a lot more Apple gear around the office lately, it’s not your imagination. Cupertino’s consumer-y products are making historic inroads in the enterprise, a fact that’s giving IT pros fits over management, a new study finds.

According to Dimensional Research and Apple platform management specialist JAMF Software, the number of Apple devices in the enterprise has doubled in three years, with 91 percent of organizations now reporting business-grade support for Apple gear.

Of those, better than half say they support 50 to 500 Apple devices while 25 percent say they’re taking care of between 500 and 5,000 devices from the iPhone and iPad vendor. That’s a huge leap from 2011 when a similar survey found that Apple wares made up less than 10 percent of the device population at the vast majority of business organizations.

That same plurality now reports that Apple has busted through the 10 percent barrier across most enterprises and better than a third of respondents say the Apple landscape has grown to more than a quarter of all of the devices in their shops. The uptake is attributed to end-user preference for Apple devices attributed to the perception that the units contribute to higher productivity and offer access to applications only available on the Apple platform.

And the trend looks to continue, the Dimensional researchers found.  Sixty-eight percent of those surveyed said they expect the number of Apple devices at work to increase 25 percent over the next three years.

That’s not surprising, considering the nod Apple CEO Tim cook gave his company’s enterprise efforts earlier this year. Cook told analysts during an earning call that there was “huge potential” for Apple to sell into businesses, claiming that iPhones are used in 97 percent of Fortune 500 firms, while the iPad is used in 98 percent of them.

“I think the road in enterprise is a longer one,” said Cook. ”The arc is longer than in consumer, which can immediately go out and buy things. I think we’ve done a lot of the groundwork as you can tell from these numbers that I’ve given you, and I would expect that it would have more and more payback in the future.”

That’s not to say the enterprises hosting all this Apple gear are particularly thrilled about it. “Apple devices are not easily managed, contrary to popular perception,” the Dimensional Research report says. “While Apple has become prevalent in the enterprise, it is adding workload and additional challenges to the IT team.”

About half of those polled said their organization was ill-prepared for the wave of Apple devices and 44 percent bemoaned the inadequacy of their current tools for managing Apple software and devices. That’s forcing many in IT to shift critical resources toward Apple support, even without budgetary support, and is pushing 60 percent of organizations to try to retrain IT staff on Apple products.

That leaves a pretty clear opening for Apple-savvy channel partners, and yes, there are quite a few,  to provide the kind of specialized support these organizations desperately need and obviously lack. We’ve noted some impressive performance among solution providers focused on Apple in recent quarters along with a growing number of partners who are adding Apple to their go-to list of top vendor partners.

That’s not happening in a vacuum. There’s movement afoot in the Apple services and support space, and it’s becoming more evident both empirically and anecdotally. We’ll be watching this space to see which partners get positioned best to take a bit of what looks like a golden delicious opportunity.

This article originally appeared on Channelnomics.