Michael Dell used to say that the channel was the gift that just kept on giving -- and it was not meant as a compliment. A few years back Dell changed course and now has over 100,000 partners. In truth, partners were always a big thing to Dell. Only they would tell their customers what to buy and when the Dell boxes came in, the "partner" would show up make everything work. Now those people actually are Dell Partners.
Apple has also gone without the channel for much of its history preferring to let the products speak for themselves and the fans to figure out how to set everything up. Recently however, Apple has started courting partners more directly than we have ever seen before.
Here is an article about it from the website: Redmond Channel Partner.
Here is a link to the intro page on: Apple's website.
So now that Apple finds itself deep in the business environment as a result of the BYOD movement in IT, they are making an effort to take full advantage.
This will be interesting to watch. One thing Apple has always had as a result of their independence from partners or business customers it the ability to make their products without having to consider large customers. Microsoft, along with all of the enterprise focussed vendors, have for a long time had to collaborate with partners and customers on their product roadmaps.
Apple has not been very collaborative about this kind of thing in the past. So new muscles will have to be built.