What the IBM and Apple deal means to you and me

What the IBM and Apple deal means to you and me

Summary: IBM and Apple have combined forces to bring you the next phase of computing: Personalized Computing Intelligence. This is, of course, speculation on my part, but it makes more sense than anything else I've read on the subject.


[Author's Note/Disclaimer: This post is pure speculation on my part. I have no insider knowledge of any plans from either IBM or Apple.]

I remember many years ago when Apple posted ads that were very anti-IBM in nature. I also remember cringing a bit at the sight of them, thinking that it might be a bad idea to attempt the whole David and Goliath thing again. I mean, it worked once (David slaying Goliath, that is), but don't press your luck. You might wonder what I think of the IBM/Apple deal and I'm happy to tell you that I'm excited by what I think the future holds for us as a result of it.

IBM and Apple make the perfect alliance because one has what the other does not.

IBM has the strength in cloud, enterprise storage, enterprise (big iron) computing, and a foothold in the enterprise as a whole. Apple has all but tied up the consumer market for phones, music players, and tablets. It also has a fair share of the desktop market with its Macbook Air, Macbook Pro, and Mac mini (which I'm using right now).

Before I give you my perspective on this deal, let me give you some idea of commentary I've read from other journalists and analysts. Some say that it will fail miserably, just like it has in the past when these two have tried to make a go of it. Others say that it's no big deal. A few even yawn at the announcement.

Naysayers are all alike. They immediately trash something that they don't understand, which for most technology journalists is all in a day's work. If you hadn't noticed, I don't care for many of the others who tout themselves as technology journalists. Almost none of them have any technical skills, technical knowledge, or technical experience to speak of, but yet they speak right up and deliver a buzzword-filled diatribe at every opportunity to do so. Some of them even get paid for it. I like that type least of all.

No, there's no justice in the world and you shouldn't expect any.

So, what could the grand plan be for these two now equally tall tech industry giants?

Yes, I know that Apple and IBM have tried to dance in the past, but technology hadn't really caught up with the potential. Now it has. To me, this May-December romance is ready for consummation. I see IBM's enterprise roots and Apple's consumer roots becoming intertwined for what could be the greatest alliance ever conceived.

Why am I so positive about the Apple/IBM deal, when I typically want to toss my invisible grenades into the middle of such agreements?

Because I see the potential. And whether I'm right or wrong about it remains to be seen.

I won't keep you in suspense anymore. Here's what I think:

  • IBM will allow Apple to integrate Watson power into its computers and gadgets.
  • IBM will supply enterprise cloud storage for Apple devices.
  • Apple will become more enterprise friendly.
  • iOS will be the new enterprise desktop computing environment for all devices.
  • IBM and Apple will start or purchase a third company to produce this new service-based operating system.

You might be asking, "What good is having Watson-powered or Watson-enabled apps?" Ah, take off your blinders my friends and see the brave new world of data driven everything. Every decision you make, ever email you send, every tweet, every place you go, and every document you save will someone be tied to the cloud, enterprise storage, and data analytics.

Basically, it's going to mean that your devices and your apps learn you. Think about combining Google, Amazon, Facebook, your best friend, and your mom into a device. That's what this new Watson-powered Apple device is going to be. And you thought Watson was cute when it won on Jeopardy. You thought it was just an IBM research project that had no real world application. You were wrong.

Watson is at the epicenter of this new phase of computing. Your phone, your tablet, your car, your computer, and even your home will become extensions of you. Forget the Jetsons—that's as far from what's coming as the Jetsons were from the Flintstones.

Take this example scenario as what's going to happen.

By the time you get to your desk at 8:30AM, your day's agenda is displayed on your screen and you're logged in to your system with email and browser open. Your phone and your computer's proximity sensors connected and authorized your login.

Your first meeting time arrives and your computer's internal softphone dials the conference number, enters the passcode and displays the meeting notes with a live list of attendees. Call recording is on.

Near the noon hour, your computer displays your favorite noontime haunts and travel ETAs for the top three in the list. The corporate cafeteria specials scroll across the bottom of your screen. You head for the elevator that's waiting for you (proximity sensor) to go down to the corporate cafeteria.

Your computer locked itself as soon as you walked away—no need to worry.

You attend your afternoon meetings and calls via the same automated sensors you used earlier. A new email has arrived that requires your attention and it opens on your computer demanding your focus. You tap the Call icon in the email to phone the sender to discuss.

It's near the end of the day, but you notice that one of your colleagues in another time zone needs to speak to you. You walk away from your desk for the day, computer locks itself again, and as you walk out of the building your car starts itself and sets the internal temperature to 74 degrees Fahrenheit.

You enter the car and your colleague sends you an instant message that's read aloud over the car's speakers. You carry on a voice conversation with her while you navigate your way from the parking lot to the expressway.

You come home from work at 6PM after being stuck in traffic for 45 minutes. You open your front door and immediately upon walking into your den, your Apple TV pops on because it senses your presence because of your phone's proximity to it and gives you a list of take out restaurants that you order from most often. You select one. Your order is placed in the background, while the TV goes to your favorite saved show list.

And your house is at the perfect temperature because your thermostat received updates as to your location from your car and your phone.

You hear a noise in the kitchen. It's your refrigerator pouring you a drink—your favorite, a Manhattan with two cherries (OK, that's my favorite but who's counting?). You walk into the kitchen to retrieve your drink and your dishwasher says, "Welcome home, your dishes are clean."

While watching your TV, you see a message display across the bottom of the screen that reads, "Your wife is 1.5 miles away at Wal-Mart, do you need anything from the store?"

You respond, "Yes, I'd like some Sociables and Dubliner cheese."

Your TV sends the message to your wife's phone.

You place your drink onto a coaster on your coffee table and the coaster detects that your drink is no longer at its optimal temperature and adjusts itself to remedy the situation.

You receive another message at the bottom of your screen that reads, "Your electric bill is due in three days, do you want to pay it now?" You respond, "Yes", and then provide your authorization code for verification.

Your wife arrives, hands you your crackers and cheese and exclaims that she's tired and needs to go soak in the tub for a while. The tub begins to fill up as she makes her way toward the bathroom. You hear the refrigerator again, but this time it creates her favorite after work beverage, a cranberry soda with crushed ice, which you promptly retrieve and deliver to her because you know what's good for you. Hey, technology can only do so much.

"What's for dinner", your wife asks, while starting to relax in her bath and her fizzy drink.

"It's on its way."

Thanks Apple. Thanks IBM.

Focus on that perfect Manhattan. Everything else I can wait for.

What do you think of my little scenario? I know that it isn't completely focused on the enterprise, but it does give you some ideas of the possibilities. Do you think that IBM and Apple are going to create an integrated future for us or am I just dreaming? Talk back and let me know.

Related Stories:

Topics: IBM, Apple, Enterprise Software


Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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  • Keeping piling it up

    Hitting new levels of silly hype over a couple apps.
    Buster Friendly
    • Totally agree

      Not to mention the "Apple Tax" that will be passed along to businesses for these apps. Bottom line profits will look worse. No thanks, stick with Microsoft and commodity vendors for best return on investment.
      Sean Foley
      • Keep Dreaming Sean...

        Microsoft is no longer the only game in town.

        They're nervous, sloppy, and rushing out one lemon after another to market, long before they've ripended.

        Business people and consumers are buying new laptops (not overpriced, confused, underpowered, tablet-laptop-transgendered-Surfaces).

        They are also buying these laptops with none other than Windows 7. That fact alone should give MS pause.

        Nobody in their right mind wants to use Windows as tablet software. That's what real tablets running real mobile OSes are for!

        And Windows 8 does not equal Windows 7 minus the Metro start screen. Underneath, Windows 8 is a locked down OS that's designed for MS to control your PC as admin, make you an ordinary user, and steer you to that empty ghost town of a so called MS "store".

        All Windows 8.1 succeeded at is breaking the last few things that Windows 8 failed to destroy. Be it not mistaken, if Windows 9 looks and behaves anything like Windows 8.x, MS is done.
        • It looks to be you're the one dreamin' orandy

          or should we call you orphony?

          Seriously, nobody could miss the mark as much (or as far) as you do on a regular basis without having others wonder if you're for real, or not.
  • if you a ceo, cio, cmo it means a lot of free lunches

    If you can stomach the sales and marketing hype. Otherwise it don't mean nuthin.
  • @Buster, @greywolf7

    We shall see. If nothing else, now they have some ideas of where they should be headed.
    • I think you are spot on with your Apple-IBM scenario, Ken.

      The only question that remains is the time frame in which this becomes reality. BTW, I understand that all the technology for this grand vision is currently in place but time is needed for integration of these technological assets. The key question is how much time is needed.

      My best guess is no longer than five years and no less than three years before this scenario becomes commonplace. Welcome to a Brave New World.
    • Actually, I like that you pay attention and reply to comments...

      Of course, Watson could do that, too. Maybe... [ok... won't go there ;-)]

      Whether Apple/IBM will do what you describe, they definitely WANT to. You are also correct about the technology behind Watson; it gets better the more it knows and learns.

      1. What about security? Yes, you mention authentication via proximity several times. Remember the US drone that landed in front of Iranian engineers several years ago because they cleverly used a "false flag" GPS signal generator and fooled it into thinking it had gone home? Add that to current NSA creepiness, and it may be awhile before the trust level for this arrives.
      2. Your scenario implies something ... that a large segment of the moneyed (not poor or near poor) population is productive enough so that shaving a few moments off of their manual efforts (since all this can be done manually now) is worth what they will pay for it. This kind of integration will be massively expensive. Are we (millions of us) going to be that productive anytime soon?
      3. You and I both understand everything you describe; you probably know some of the APIs that will be used. It all makes sense. Now try to explain it to your mother-in-law. Some of us are comfortable with "magic", but many aren't. We won't use what we don't understand. Many of the commenters here, along with millions of others, just won't use such things...

      Now, take everything you lay out, and "push it down one level". What level is it on now? Why of course... the IoT! THAT's where we're going in the next 10 years, whether our respective mothers-in-law know/understand or not.
  • Really?

    You are assuming that EVERYONE will be buying into the Apple/IBM ecosystem to make this Jetson's-like scenario to come true.

    Not likely.

    Nor is it likely that everyone will want every electrical device in their homes and cars connected to the Internet. I sure as heck do not...and never will.

    But hey...whatever floats your boat Ken.
    • @IT_Fella

      So, you're saying you don't like Manhattans. How about a dry Martini?
  • I think you're nuts

    •IBM will allow Apple to integrate Watson power into its computers and gadgets.

    I'm not sure Apple is overly interested in Watson, especially if it needs to run on IBM servers. Apple is so determined to control its own destiny that it's gone from being a chip buyer to a chip designer. Depending on a 3rd party to provide a core service doesn't make ANY sense, and is contrary to Apple's core culture.

    •IBM will supply enterprise cloud storage for Apple devices.

    Apple seems pretty happy with Azure. Granted they don't talk about using Azure, but Apple doesn't talk about very much of what they do internally. I doubt Apple is eager to invite IBM into those new state of the art datacenters either.

    •Apple will become more enterprise friendly.

    I doubt Apple will ever be "enterprise friendly." However they may become less "enterprise ambivalent." Tim Cook doesn't have Steve Jobs' natural aversion to the business market, but they've done very well avoiding the rat-trap that is traditional enterprise sales.

    •iOS will be the new enterprise desktop computing environment for all devices.

    "[A]ll devices"? SRSLY? I just don't see that happening. It may become a de facto standard by virtue of it's penetration of C-level suites and less cost-sensitive companies, but from mere inertia the WinTel hegemony has many more years left in it.

    •IBM and Apple will start or purchase a third company to produce this new service-based operating system.

    Apple will never, NEVER, NEVER EVER use an OS they don't develop themselves , by themselves. End of story.
    • Reset

      The Watson everywhere doesn't seem likely. Agreed.

      Regarding "Enterprise Friendly," the commentary on the deal I trust suggests that this was done exactly so that Apple does not have to change its consumer device focus. IBM are the ones who know how to put together and support a package that sells to enterprise.

      As to Apple becoming an IBM customer, I would expect that Apple would make its choices based on value received, rather than joint alliances. But, who knows?

      An Enterprise OS (or as I've seen elsewhere, Enterprise devices). Nope. Apple is proud of its os. Its proud of its devices. OS X is a Unix, which is an enterprise-accepted os. IBM considers the os, and the hardware, an implementation detail and has transitioned their business around profiting on the services and support.

      My overview is on paper this looks good, in that there are no obvious internal conflicts in either company that could subvert the strategy. Are there any hidden internal conflicts that management cannot resolve? Who knows. Apple and IBM might, but they wouldn't publicize that if they did.

      I allow some skepticism because I have zero information about the customers. i.e., the ones who can sign on the dotted line. If they have an allergic reaction to iThings — with or without good reason — the deal underperforms.

      The thing to remember is that both Apple and IBM will be fine if, 36 months from now, this goes away and joins the well-populated pantheon of good ideas that didn't work.
    • @matthew_maurice

      Yeah, and would you have ever predicted that they would have used anything but the Apple OS on anything they built or use Intel processors?
  • japan

    The Watson world ......has a buy.....and a pincode is used.Japan lately.... has BANK automats using HAND at the ID.

    I think ,that Watson even can do with the hand :......in the cloud!
  • I can see SURI getting a boost with Watson but.

    I still don't see how IOS will work in the business world, other than a tablet what takes notes and displays emails. Unless there is a concerted effort on Apples or IBMS side to create buisineess appropriate APPS and not just by 3rd party developers.

    I work daily with SQL Server and Oracle. People who use AutoCAD or any software NOT designed to work on lowpowered ARM based systems.

    Now if they are working on developing a Remote Desktop like environment to run all this kinds of software packages via a mainframe, that seems more reasonable, but then why not just use a $200.00-250.00 Chrome-book for that same purpose? With a Chromebook, the hardware cost and OS maintenance would be minimal compared to Apple tablets/notebooks. Even MS would be hard pressed to compete.

    Regarding the smart home, I think that's already been in the works and Apples and IBM's partnership isn't as significant in moving that forward IMO.

    My feeling is that instead of cloud computing, each home will have it's own server that runs these kinds of things. A home server does not have to be a super powerful system. I have an Atom based server that runs an FTP service (Fillzilla) and holds all my documents and media. This way, there is less concern about the NSA tapping Apple and IBM over their shoulders and getting access to all the information on each Americans daily life/routine. I don't think you would find many people who would not agree, that trust in cloud computing has been significantly damaged because of the NSA. We have Snowden to thank for at least letting us know the extent of how much the NSA is involved in each of our lives.

    While I believe many people have nothing to hide, they and I still won't like the idea of Big Government scrutinizing their daily life with such detail. There is a huge risk of us losing our personal freedoms and the 'Land of the Free' would no longer apply.
  • Security

    I realize your workstation logon scenario is meant to be idealistic but really? All I need to access someone's computer is to steal their phone? No more plucked eyeballs or severed fingers?
    • @MajorlyCool

      And gain access to the building they work in, etc., etc.
  • How far in the future are we talking about?

    Let’s just let IBM make some moneys by using the mobile factor to sale custom software, services and support contracts while allowing Apple to profit by them pushing more iProducts.

    The author refers to a long term dream versus the short term profits that can be had by both companies today.
  • Siri or Watson?

    Or combine them. We can call it Sir Watson for the Brits and Sirison for everyone else. lol

    Personally I'll hold out for a robot butler/administrative assistant. It can walk around and turn everything on and get me my drink.
    • @MajorlyCool

      You should probably hold out for a robot girlfriend too. ;-)