Apple and IBM have announced an exclusive partnership that will make iOS devices a much more realistic option for an enterprise when purchased through IBM.
For Apple, this means that IBM will encourage its customers to use iOS devices ahead of anything else for mobile when buying its software and data analytics offerings.
While for IBM, it means that desirable hardware will now be optimised to run its software and services to give superior performance when compared to competitors.
To date, iOS has been predominately a consumer based offering and its penetration into the enterprise market has been driven almost exclusively by its desirability to users in their personal lives.
For IT departments, managing and securing these devices has been a problem which is only now beginning to be solved by the likes of Good Technologies, MobileIron, AirWatch, Microsoft and so on.
I suspect that IBM will get much greater access to iOS operation than is normally allowed to software developers and this will allow it to deepen its functionality on these devices.
This could include, firstly, the removal of the limitation that prevents distinct apps from sharing data with each other. This would allow different enterprise apps running on the device to share data with each other meaningfully enhancing their functionality.
Secondly, the deep integration of IBM software will allow the enterprise to control the devices to a much greater level of detail than other device management platforms.
Thirdly, IBM apps will now be optimised for iOS meaning that they run more efficiently and consume less battery life. Users should also see a meaningful improvement in performance, stability and reliability.
This is positive for both Apple and IBM but this is very far from a deal that will ensure that Apple will become the enterprise mobile device of choice.
iOS in the enterprise is predominantly driven by users buying their own devices and then getting the IT department to make them work as best they can with their infrastructure.
This deal goes some way towards making that much easier for the enterprise, and especially for IBM customers, but huge pieces are missing.
Firstly there is SAP, a software and solutions firm that runs the key operations of a very large number of the biggest companies in the world. Hence, an enterprise offering needs to be working well with SAP systems to have wide ranging appeal.
Secondly Microsoft’s exchange server is an integral part of the communications infrastructure of most companies. Microsoft has plans of its own when it comes to offering devices and services to corporates.
Thirdly there is Oracle. Oracle runs the databases of many companies and again, integration with Oracle is going to be needed to have a deep and rich offering for the enterprise.
Consequently, while this is undoubtedly a good step forward for both Apple and IBM, it is very far from a killer blow that will ensure that Apple and IBM will romp home taking the enterprise for themselves.
This deal is certainly negative for BlackBerry which is trying to orchestrate a recovery around its offering for the enterprise and has most to lose. It is also negative for the other hardware makers like Samsung and Microsoft who are also targeting the enterprise for mobile device and service sales.
However, as there is so much more to the enterprise than IBM and Apple, much more needs to be offered to really change the existing status quo.
The key to the enterprise will be offering users a series of services within which they can fulfil all of their professional duties in an easy, fun and secure user experience.
This is what Radio Free Mobile refers to as the Digital Work Pie which will be the subject of future research publications.
This deal is just the first broadside in a battle that is likely to be fought with increasing intensity over the next five or more years.
The Apple-IBM deal key facts
• Apple and IBM’s partnership will provide iPhones and iPads tailored for the business environment
• The deal targets corporate clients and government agencies
• The two companies aim to create over 100 vertical-focused enterprise apps built for Apple’s iPad and iPhone, for retail, healthcare, and other industries
• IBM will sell iPhones and iPads tailored to specific industries
• IBM’s cloud services - such as device management, security and analytics - will be optimised for iOS
• The new offerings will be available on Apple’s iOS 8
• Apple will set up a new support service and IBM will manage functions such as device activation and security
• Apple’s CEO Tim Cook said: ‘For the first time ever, we’re putting IBM’s renowned big data analytics at iOS users’ fingertips, which opens up a large market opportunity for Apple’
• Ginni Rometty, IBM chairman, president and CEO, said the alliance ‘will build on the company’s momentum in bringing the innovations to clients globally’