Will Apple bring developers to IBM's Watson ecosystem?

Will Apple bring developers to IBM's Watson ecosystem?

Summary: IBM was hoping to build a mobile developer ecosystem for Watson, but that takes time. It's quite possible that Watson can piggyback on Apple's iOS developer base.


One of IBM's primary motives for cutting a large enterprise deal with Apple may revolve around building a mobile and cloud developer ecosystem for cognitive computing and Watson.

Last week, IBM and Apple announced a broad enterprise pact where Big Blue would develop industry specific apps built on iOS. In addition, there were service, support and mobile device management parts of the deal. Apple gets some enterprise throughput with IBM that it couldn't achieve on its own. IBM gets a key partner in Apple and some help for its mobile efforts.

But the real win for IBM may be getting access to Apple's large developer base. Part of the IBM-Apple partnership revolves around putting "big data analytics at iOS users’ fingertips," said Apple CEO Tim Cook.

IBM's big analytics bet is its $1 billion investment to create a Watson business unit. This division would spearhead a charge into cognitive computing, or systems that learn and adapt. Healthcare is one obvious vertical for Watson, but IBM has many more industries targeted.

The problem: It's hard to build a developer base. IBM is investing in startups who are building apps for Watson, but wooing developers is tricky---especially when much mobile development time is spent on iOS and Android with Windows Phone playing a No. 3 role. Could IBM really woo mobile and cloud developers and get them to work on the Watson platform quickly?

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Probably not.

Enter Apple. Developers for iOS make more money than Android and get better running apps overall. As a result, iOS gets the apps first with Android versions coming later. Enterprise giants go iOS first as do consumer developers.

IBM needs those developers if it's going to really make Watson a commercial powerhouse. Through its Apple partnership, IBM will certainly get a look from developers. It's unclear what IBM analytics tools will be built into iOS, but it's possible that developers may give Big Blue the Watson ecosystem lift it wants.

ZDNet's Monday Morning Opener is our opening salvo for the week in tech. As a global site, this editorial publishes on Monday at 8am AEST in Sydney, Australia, which is 6pm Eastern Time on Sunday in the US. It is written by a member of ZDNet's global editorial board, which is comprised of our lead editors across Asia, Australia, Europe, and the US.

Previously on Monday Morning Opener

Topics: Enterprise Software, Apple, IBM, Mobility, Bring Your Own Device

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  • completely different skill set.

    Rocket explodes on the launch pad.
    • Some may.

      But others may not.

      Consider Suri being backed by Watson...

      A much better result.
      • Siri vs Watson

        I can imagine them arguing over poor directions in Apple maps.
        Sean Foley
    • asasasasa

  • Still trying

    Still trying to milk that "IBM is going to make a couple apps" into something interesting'?
    Buster Friendly
    • Games?

      I suppose they could make a Jeopardy game. Considering all the top apps for iOS are all games. 1 player vs watson.
      Sean Foley
  • Depends on if IBM insists on Java or not

    iOS developers tend to be "native platform guys" with hard won skills in memory management, tracking reference counting, knowing how to use instance types and threading... all the low level stuff native programmers know to do.

    These folks tend to have a bit of a distaste for Java and all of Java's butt dragging and bloated magic. And as I understand it Watson is mostly in Java. Java was a big dud on the Mac. So all I can say is the Watson API had better be C friendly! (I know there is a REST service, but I don't know how small a subset of the functions that is.)
    • Yea, okay

      So, you've personally spoke to all IOS developers? You do know Java is the key enterprise globally?
      Buster Friendly
      • Its used in enterprises

        because it is easy and you can hire programmers who can work in it cheap. That's it.
        • False (obviously)

          The reason for using Java is it's binary cross platform and there's a highly developed base of libraries and development tools.
          Buster Friendly
          • Few actually care about that

            and "highly developed" is a tad over-exuberant when speaking of the rather miserable Eclipse development experience (though NetBeans is fairly nice.)

            People are doing almost all their Java on a LAMP stack, server side, or LAMP-compatible middleware servers. It was Sun's vision that binaries would run everywhere, because they wanted to ensure that JAR files could be deployed on big iron Solaris servers, and noodled up on Windows developer clients.

            None of that ended up happening.

            Now the developers noodle it up on Linux boxes, and then serve it up on Linux boxes. Heck to the extent they are on WebSphere or WebLogic, they're still on Linux. So binary portability has next to zero importance.
          • Yea, okay

            You're narrow experience seems to be the issue here.
            Buster Friendly
    • Or they can switch

      there are plenty of other Chinese operating systems that were knocked up in a garage that use the same C programming since it doesn't require a very robust operating system.
  • IBM-Apple initiative, rocking a huge builder at the top of a mountain

    Larry Dignan asks the good question, "Could IBM really woo mobile and cloud developers and get them to work on the Watson platform quickly?" Larry then goes on to answer the question somewhat timidly and incorrectly, "Probably not."

    Think of the IBM-Apple initiative as one of rocking a huge builder at the top of a mountain… rocking it back and forth with the tremendous force the the combined IBM-Apple resources bring to the table. It is just a matter of time before the boulder no longer needs to be nudged… it will be cascading down the mountain clearing its own path and careening through the marketplace. Nothing timid here!
    • Too Simplistic

      Unless you are in bed with the Apple ecosystem, any functionality from this would need to be cross platform. Apple has a very poor track record in sharing.
      This has potential but unless Apple changes it's spots, it is just a headline.

      Then again, knowing TC's background, this is actually an expected attempt.
    • More likely "boulder" analogy...

      Sisyphus mythology. Debate amongst yourselves which one is Sisyphus and which is Zeus, as I'm sure they are. Better hope they have their Red Bull...
    • IBM

      They have survived thanks to a an ocean of demand that could make even the most improperly evolved fish fat and happy. But the times they are a changing.
  • Apple Propaganda piece

    Apps that make money for the developer are trivial games and social media. IBM's big data and Watson have no play in those. More specialized, technical apps that would play with Watson, make no money
    Nick Thompson
    • I do not understand this comment

      IBM is making a series of vertical market applications, and making a private "behind the firewall" app ecosystem for iOS devices.

      How can you possibly know anything about who will or won't make money at that, given it is only just announced?
      • lol

        IBM is the whale that is floating on the surface while sharks and little fish come and take bites of what once was a great creature. They were once a great hardware company but that all went to Lenovo. They kept their server business but companies are now moving to the cloud and many of the cloud providers are not choosing IBM. IBM always made great hardware, but their attempts at software, frameworks or app delivery always were terrible and seemed to take standards as a suggestion they need not be bothered with. Apple devices used to all contain IBM hardware and all the Apple lovers foamed at the mouth about how Intel Pc hardware could never hold a candle to their beloved IBM hardware, But that all fell silent when Apple adopted Intel PC hardware. So much so much frothing and seething and worshipping moving sands.. silly