As Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) prepares to announce quarterly results on Tuesday, April 24, here's a question designed more for The VAR Guy's audience: Is Apple a friend to solution providers or an enemy? Take your time. There’s no rush. Think about it.

When I posed this question recently to some of my channel sources, it caused them to pause. Hmm… They would start talking about how valuable the coveted Apple medallion (remember that word) used to be (many, many moons ago) and how the iPhone and iPad are helping to fuel the mobile computing revolution. But then they would stop themselves and ponder the question a bit more.

Then the conversation would turn a bit sour. While enthusiastic about the bells, whistles and adoption of the iPad, the “all knowing” teenagers working at the Apple Store is a sore spot. Heck, even some solution providers admitted to secretly tapping into them for advice from time to time.

While praising Apple for getting C-level executives on board and into tablet computing (mainly because it is cool and hip), many IT departments are feeling their way in the dark on how to integrate them securely into their existing IT environment and how to load it up with enough business apps to actually make it an enterprise tool and not just a luxurious video player and Web reader.

My Personal Views

It’s quite the conundrum isn’t it? Well here are my two cents -- and please note that they may not reflect the opinions of The VAR Guy himself.

I don’t trust Apple and haven’t since I’ve been covering the channel from 1990. With me, it all started 20 something years ago when Apple’s Jim Buckley stepped onto a stage at a channel event and told the channel audience that Apple wants to get closer to them. This came right after a quiet direct selling campaign from the vendor.

I remember good ole Ron Cook of Ron Cook’s Connecting Point in Las Vegas standing up and shouting out “I don’t know if I’m comfortable with Apple as my business partner” or something to that affect. The comment brought the house down and the dye was cast. And you know something, since then the sentiment on Apple and its channel relationships haven’t changed much.

To be honest, I don’t get the consumer love affair with their products and they certainly aren’t ready for prime time enterprise-class application use. Sure, units inside the company such as FileMaker is looking to change that with a set of customizable database applications, but it falls short of what enterprises and SMB’s competing with enterprises really need.

The new applications tackle such mundane tasks as managing contacts, projects, digital content. And who knows if it ever will see wide-spread business adoption unless Apple opens up the OS more for application development. But there is no reason to believe they will anytime soon.

Within My Own House...

Take me for example. I got an iPod 2 about 6 months ago but I rarely use it as a business tool. My kids like to take silly photos with it though. Further, my 16-year old daughter had to make two important tech decisions lately: what type of smartphone to buy and what laptop she wanted for her 16th birthday. She chose the latest Blackberry over the iPhone (not even considering the future of RIM) and an HP laptop over the Mac.

What was her reasoning? She said both were more conducive to her needs, which are communications, Web browsing and productivity tools. She went for functionality rather than acceptance.  This is an over simplification but the point is productivity won out over glitz.

For corporations and the channel that supports them, it’s the same thing. The consumerization of IT fueled by employees bringing in the mobile device of their choice and demanding support is helping to heat up the Apple hot air balloon. However, its restricted OS and push to fuel support to the Apple Store is at odds with its channel and I don’t see that changing in the near future.

As one channel executive told me “Apple was my first great partner. Back then it was an honor to be an Apple provider. Today the epitome of the Apple ‘mystique’ is the Apple Store. It's where you go. You don't even think about an IT provider. Will that change as Apple tries to recapture more corporate mainstream? It will have to, or they will fail. Apple is the least open of all systems no matter what they tell you. Apple has ended up where Steve Jobs started, putting Apple II's into schools so those kids would grow up with ‘Apple’ meaning ‘computer’ to them,” he said.

So the question still stands. Yes, Apple has helped reinvigorate the tech sector, industry perceptions and Wall Street valuations -- but are they your friend or foe? Are they creating business opportunities or headaches? Take your time. There’s no rush. Think about it.

Knock ‘em alive.