​The Apple-IBM partnership: Apple spoils early, Big Blue's later?

IBM has a heavier lift when it comes to its partnership with Apple. Apple gains iPad and iPhone distribution along with joint apps with IBM. IBM has to sell transformation and the stack and consultants that go with it.

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IBM and Apple on Tuesday will roll out an iOS app aimed at the energy sector called Field Connect, which provides personalized features such as alerts, notifications and training.

The app will be a piece of IBM's cloud analytics push for utilities with the launch of IBM Insights Foundation for Energy, which will track a grid from individual transformers to the entire grid.

But the big question is how easy will it be for the energy sector to ultimately adopt and use these apps and the infrastructure behind them. IBM simply has more moving parts in the partnership compared to Apple, which is basically moving hardware---lots of iPhones and iPads.

Field Connect is part of a second installment of industry apps based on the IBM and Apple partnership. Last week, Apple CEO Tim Cook previewed the wave of apps ahead. In December, IBM and Apple delivered 10 mobile apps aimed at industries. Another 12 apps will be released this quarter and Cook said that the companies will hit 100 by end of 2015.

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Cook said:

In just over a month, more than a dozen enterprise customers have signed on as foundation clients to transform their companies with iPhone, iPad, and IBM Mobile First solutions, including Miami-Dade County, the seventh-largest county in the United States by population; and American Eagle Outfitters, which operates more than 1,000 retail stores and ships to over 80 countries worldwide. The list of new customers is expanding rapidly. IBM is engaged with more than 130 additional companies looking to empower their employees with Mobile First for iOS solutions, and the list keeps growing. We couldn't be more pleased with this partnership.

The reason Cook is so jazzed is that Apple's part of the partnership revolves around moving iPads and iPhones into then enterprise and then supporting and managing them with the help of IBM, which gets to hang out with one of the coolest kids in tech.

Now let's ponder the IBM part of the partnership. The Field Connect app for utilities is really just a front end. Apple's gear is also the front end. For IBM, the win is enabling transformation on the backend with its mobile and analytics stack.

Not surprisingly, that transformation effort plays to IBM's strengths---analytics, a mobile stack and an army of consultants to co-innovate with customers. In other words, IBM has a harder sales lift. A customer may like iOS and want to standardize on Apple, but the partnership really revolves around a whole technology enchilada. IBM wants the transformation work.

Add it up and the launch of individual apps from Apple and IBM don't add up to a lot. In fact, 100 apps at the end of the year will only mean that Apple and IBM have built out showpieces to sell. You can bet that Apple will get most of the spoils on the front end. What will be interesting to watch is whether IBM lands deals on the back end.