What the IBM and Apple deal means to you and me

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.
Written by Ken Hess, Contributor

[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.

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