According to the Tuesday announcement, the partnership will involve the creation of 100 industry-specific enterprise solutions including native iOS apps, IBM cloud services optimized for iPhones and iPads (known as “IBM MobileFirst for iOS”), and new enterprise-focused AppleCare service and support. It will also allow IBM to supply and manage Apple devices for companies.
The IBM MobileFirst for iOS agreement is designed to combine IBM’s enterprise software, including big data and analytics capabilities, with the simplicity for which Apple is known. Industry experts suspect that the deal might give IBM greater access to iOS features and tools that it can integrate into its management software. IBM will also be allowed to sell iPhones and iPads with the industry-specific solutions to its business clients.
Apple’s iOS devices, while widely used, are currently not considered appropriate for many enterprise applications. This partnership with IBM, and its 100,000 industry and domain consultants and software developers, could change that.
Meanwhile, IBM has committed $1.2 billion towards building its cloud footprint this year and seems more committed than ever to providing mobile and cloud solutions for businesses. It plans on releasing “made-for-business apps” starting this fall and into 2015 that target specific industries such as retail, healthcare, banking, travel and transportation, telecommunications and insurance.
It will also be providing the “IBM MobileFirst Platform for iOS”, which provides enterprise capabilities such as analytics, workflow and cloud storage, as well as device management, security and integration. It also gives IT administrators the ability to provide a private app catalog, as well as implement data and transaction security services.
“This alliance with Apple will build on our momentum in bringing these innovations to our clients globally, and leverages IBM’s leadership in analytics, cloud, software and services,” IBM president and CEO Ginni Rometty said in a statement. “We are delighted to be teaming with Apple, whose innovations have transformed our lives in ways we take for granted, but can’t imagine living without. Our alliance will bring the same kind of transformation to the way people work, industries operate and companies perform.”
As some have noted, there’s an emphasis on the exclusivity of the arrangement between IBM and Apple, which suggests that Apple won’t make a similar agreement with HP, nor will IBM seek out a similar relationship with Google Android or Microsoft Windows Phone.
These other phone platforms are already taking steps to add enterprise functionality, but the deal between Apple and IBM seems to be a very serious effort to make iPhones and iPads trusted workplace devices. It remains to be seen whether Apple and IBM’s joint vision has room for allowing other devices to coexist within its ecosystem, or if it will provide a relatively closed software and hardware ecosystem model – similar to Apple’s approach in the consumer space.
As mobile devices continue to proliferate and contribute to productivity, they will inevitably find their way into enterprises. But it’s been a struggle for administrators to ensure that these foreign devices remain secure and help employees remain productive. It remains to be seen whether the solutions created through Apple and IBM’s deal can provide the functionality, security and price that businesses are looking for.