Apple, IBM roll out first wave of mobile apps for business

The tech titans chose to tailor their initial batch of apps to enterprise customers in banking, retail, insurance, financial services, transportation and government.

Image: Apple, IBM

From the beginning, the unlikely coupling of IBM and Apple was meant to marry IBM's business sense with Apple's flare for design and simplicity - resulting in applications that are consumer in feel but enterprise software at the core.

That goal finally started to take shape Wednesday, nearly six months after announcing their enterprise partnership, with the debut of 10 industry-specific applications as part of the IBM MobileFirst for iOS portfolio.

The tech titans chose to tailor their initial batch of apps to enterprise customers in banking, retail, insurance, financial services, and telecommunications for governments and airlines. The apps are built exclusively for iPhone and iPad and are embedded with security and analytics and linked to core enterprise processes, IBM said.

In addition, IBM announced that introductory clients for MobileFirst for iOS solutions include Citi, Air Canada, Sprint, and Banorte.

"What we're delivering aims directly at the new quest of business--smart technologies that unlock new value at the intersection of big data and individual engagement," said Bridget van Kralingen, SVP of IBM Global Business Services, in a statement. "Our collaboration combines IBM's industry expertise and unmatched position in enterprise computing, with Apple's legendary user experience and excellence in product design to lift the performance of a new generation of business professionals."

For the insurance industry, there's the Retention app, which helps agents do things like stay current on client policies and update claims.

For telcos, there's the Expert Tech app, which is designed to drive efficiency in field service technicians.

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For governments and law enforcement, there's Case Advice, designed for social workers, and Incident Aware, which is designed to provide critical insights during emergency situations. As Apple describes the app on its website, it gives officials "a bird's-eye view of the scene's perimeter that includes GPS map data, the location of those involved in the incident, and live video feeds updated in real time on their iPhone devices. This powerful and intuitive app can even access police records to calculate risk, letting other law enforcement stakeholders know where and when other responders will appear."

For the banking and financial segment, there's Advise & Grow, which gives bankers secure authorization to access client profiles and competitive analyses, and Trusted Advice, which allows advisors to access and manage client portfolios and predictive analytics from remote locations.

For retailers, there's Pick & Pack, designed to streamline order fulfillment, and Sales Assist, which integrates with iBeacon to empower sales associates with more info as they approach and help shoppers.

For travel and transportation, there's Passenger+, which helps flight attendants improve customer

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service, and Plan Flight, which Apple says gives pilots "access to systems of record to help them estimate the fuel for their upcoming flights with even more accuracy than ever before," and allows them to "calibrate and view different fueling scenarios in seconds, without any paper calculations or calls to air traffic control."

"This is a big step for iPhone and iPad in the enterprise, and we can't wait to see the exciting new ways organizations will put iOS devices to work," said Philip Schiller, Apple's SVP of Worldwide Marketing. "The business world has gone mobile, and Apple and IBM are bringing together the world's best technology with the smartest data and analytics to help businesses redefine how work gets done."

For now, it seems as though the apps are not available in the Apple app store, but delivered via IBM. It's unclear exactly how that will work.

What is certain is that the companies intend to expand their partnership in 2015, with an expected 100 or more apps to become available in the MobileFirst for iOS portfolio.

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