IBM, Apple forge enterprise app pact: Watson, meet iPad

Apple gets a big leg up in the enterprise courtesy of IBM's vast army. IBM gets to show off its analytics and industry specific apps running exclusively on iOS.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor
ginni and tim
It's safe to say Apple gets the enterprise (and the profits involved) now. Ginni Rometty and Tim Cook create a win-win pact.

IBM and Apple said they have forged an enterprise pact where the two companies will collaborate on exclusive industry-specific applications built on iOS.

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The deal makes sense on many fronts. First, industry-specific apps will lock down Apple's iOS market share in the enterprise. Apple's iOS market share vs. Android in the enterprise is the inverse of the consumer space. IBM gets to package iOS apps, embed its analytics tools, and then use its services and channel to sprinkle the apps into corporations.

And here's another win-win: Apple gets a key enterprise partner without having to exclusively build and market to corporations. IBM gets Apple's cool factor. In other words, consumerization will only go so far for Apple's enterprise ambitions. Apple CEO Tim Cook gets the enterprise and is an IBM alum.


The details of the deal---dubbed IBM MobileFirst for iOS---break down like this:

  • Apple and IBM will create more than 100 vertical-focused enterprise apps built only for the iPhone and iPad. Target markets include retail, healthcare, banking, travel and transportation, telecommunications and insurance starting in the fall.
  • IBM's cloud services such as device management, security and analytics will be optimized for iOS. Private app catalogs and productivity suites will be available. Services will be available on IBM's Bluemix development platform.
  • AppleCare will be tailored for enterprise deployments with support on-site via IBM.
  • There's a commitment to use IBM's Fiberlink MaaS360 for mobile device management. 
  • Apple is standardizing on IBM's analytics and big data apps. 
  • IBM will package device activation, supply and management for the iOS partnership. IBM will also sell industry-focused iPhones and iPads as a bundle.
  • Big Blue's 100,000 consultants will push Apple wares in the field.
  • And finally, IBM's financing arm will be in on the deal.

Cook said:

"We're putting IBM's renowned big data analytics at iOS users’ fingertips, which opens up a large market opportunity for Apple. This is a radical step for enterprise and something that only Apple and IBM can deliver."

The market opportunity reference is critical. Apple has been knocked for lack of an iTV or iWatch (at least for now), but if it mines the enterprise better it'll keep the cash cow going for years.

On the IBM side of the equation, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty said the alliance will transform "the way people work, industries operate and companies perform."

Bottom line: The pact between IBM and Apple give both parties credibility and likely sales wins.

Forrester analyst Frank Gillett cheered the deal:

The Apple IBM partnership is a landmark agreement. Given IBM’s market strength and coverage, this partnership gives Apple enterprise capabilities and credibility at one stroke -- and gives IBM a premium advantage in the race for mobile enterprise leadership. Look for Google and leading enterprise suppliers to seek partnerships that offer a credible alternative.

Winners and losers

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Clearly, Apple is the biggest winner of the bunch, but IBM also gets its device management software into the flow. IBM has been investing heavily in mobility, specifically mobile commerce. Apple gives IBM consumerization cred.

And now for those losers:

  1. Android. Android has a ragtag band of partners in the enterprise, an operating system that has taken security knocks, and multiple versions that make the platform hard to manage. There's a reason iOS leads in enterprise market share. Gillett's point that Google will need partnerships is well taken. The problem is that it's going to be hard to match IBM's coverage in one stroke.
  2. Samsung. Samsung's business-to-business unit has been the biggest champion of Android in the enterprise. An IBM exclusive with iOS basically locks out Android in the industry-specific application department.
  3. SAP and Oracle. Both enterprise software giants have been pushing their apps in corporations with a focus on industries they dominate. For companies thinking mobile first, IBM just plowed its way into the conversation.
  4. Microsoft. The software giant's biggest play was to get Windows shops — and there are a ton of them in the enterprise — to go with Microsoft on the mobile front too. IBM and iOS will derail those plans somewhat, but not entirely. Microsoft's mobile device management and collaboration platform will be strong.
  5. BlackBerry. BlackBerry is caught in the middle of an iOS and Android enterprise war. That position is going to hurt.


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