Eli Lilly Takes Part in Secretive Program with Tech Giant Apple, Buys 15,000 iPads for Workers in Field

Eli Lilly Takes Part in Secretive Program with Tech Giant Apple, Buys 15,000 iPads for Workers in Field
February 9, 2016
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple , during its recent financial earnings report, indicated that Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co. was participating in its secretive Mobility Partner Program (MPP).

Although not a lot of details are known about the MPP, in August 2015 Apple indicated it was working with more than 40 technology companies as part of the program to improve the iPad’s functionality for business. The device, which revolutionized tablet computers, has primarily been utilized as a consumer device, but the company hopes to expand it further into the business world.

At that time, partners in the program included accounting firm Xero, digital cash register company Revel Systems, and field-service software company ServiceMax. Apple reportedly discouraged its partners from discussing the program publicly, at least with its given name, MPP.

During the company’s recent financial conference call, Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive officer, said, “We are also continuing to grow our mobility partner program. We added more than 25 partners in the December quarter, bringing the total to over 90. One great example of our progress in the enterprise is Eli Lilly, who boosted sales productivity by equipping 15,000 field-based personnel across the world with iPad. A leader in mobile in technology, Lilly has eliminated laptops in the field, and is upgrading its U.S. field sales team to iPad Pro.”

In a statement, Lilly confirmed the acquisition of the iPads for sales representatives, district sales managers, account managers and “certain medical liaison roles.”

“Several years ago Lilly made the decision to equip all field-based employees with iPads and eliminate laptop computers for non-management sales employees,” said Mark Taylor, a Lilly spokesman, in a statement. “The goals were three-fold: enhance interactions with health care providers, improve sales representative productivity and reduce costs.”

The starting price for the iPad Air is $399. Purchasing 15,000 of the devices at that price would reach around $6 million. The tablet Cook refers to, the iPad Pro, which has 78 percent more screen size than the iPad Air 2, has a starting price of $799.

There are hints that the transition to the tablets may have had some speed bumps. “Despite some initial challenges in the transition to a completely mobile platform,” said Taylor, “the program has been successful and we continue to assess options as technology and our processes change.”

Apple reported that it sold 16.1 million iPads during the “holiday shopping quarter ending Dec. 26,” which is 25 percent lower than the same period in 2014. However, it sold 2 million iPad Pro tablet computers during the quarter, compared to 1.6 million of Microsoft Corp.’s Surface tablet computers.

The iPad’s peak sales period was the first fiscal quarter of 2014, when 26.4 million units shipped. When the iPad was first introduced, many industry analysts were skeptical that anyone would be interested in a tablet computer. However, the device revolutionized the industry. That and increasingly larger touchscreen smartphones have changed the mobile device market completely, although that apparently is part of the problem for Apple and other tablet makers.

As Kelly Sheridan wrote for InformationWeek in September, “Larger and more capable smartphones have replaced the need for tablets among most consumers, who don’t see the need for two small touchscreen gadgets. When it’s time for a new mobile device, most people would rather buy the latest iPhone than upgrade an iPad.”

She also notes that going after business users is a new approach for Apple, which traditionally focused on the consumer market.

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