Will Apple bring developers to IBM's Watson ecosystem?

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.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

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.

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