With iOS Business Apps In Mind, Apple, IBM Announce Partnership

Paul Sakuma / Feature Photo Service for IBM

When old foes Apple and IBM announced their new strategic partnership two weeks ago, the photo included in the press release fulfilled the promise of the old cliché about a picture being worth a thousand words. There was IBM’s CEO, the power-suited Westchester business icon Ginni Rometty, walking alongside Apple CEO Tim Cook, dressed in his best Silicon Valley rumpled business-casual: a perfect photographic representation of the melding of the two opposite ends of the technology spectrum.

Armonk-based IBM has long been known for its dominance in enterprise business technology, while Apple has cornered the market for hip consumer devices. Now, the two companies are coming together to collaborate on a new category of industry-specific business apps, which will be built on Apple’s iOS operating system.

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Not surprisingly, the announcement has generated a lot of buzz. We break it down:

What the joint press release said: “Apple and IBM today announce an exclusive partnership that teams the market-leading strengths of each company to transform enterprise mobility through a new class of business apps—bringing IBM’s big data and analytics capabilities to iPhone® and iPad®…  The new IBM MobileFirst for iOS solutions will be built in an exclusive collaboration that draws on the distinct strengths of each company: IBM’s big data and analytics capabilities, with the power of more than 100,000 IBM industry and domain consultants and software developers behind it, fused with Apple’s legendary consumer experience, hardware and software integration and developer platform. The combination will create apps that can transform specific aspects of how businesses and employees work using iPhone and iPad, allowing companies to achieve new levels of efficiency, effectiveness and customer satisfaction—faster and easier than ever before.”

What Martin Schroeter, IBM’s Senior Vice President and CFO, Finance and Enterprise Transformation, said during IBM’s July 17th Q2 2014 earnings call: “…From the expansion of our cloud platforms and capacity, to the OpenPOWER consortium, to the partnership with Apple for enterprise mobility, to next generation chip technologies, we’re leveraging our unique strengths in innovation, and enterprise capabilities to maintain our differentiation in the emerging areas of enterprise IT.”

What Apple CEO Tim Cook said during Apple’s July 22nd Q3 FY14 earnings call [explaining why he is optimistic that the partnership will soon significantly increase iPad usage and sales]: “We think that the core thing that unleashes this is a better go-to-market which IBM clearly brings to the table, but even more importantly, apps that are written with MobileFirst in mind. Not all, but many of the enterprise apps that have been written for iPad have been, essentially, ports from the desktop and haven’t taken full advantage of mobile.”

What Forbes contributor and former IBM salesman Chuck Jones thinks: “While the Apple/IBM partnership is a positive step for the companies to increase their addressable markets (Apple) or expand their offerings (IBM), I don’t think there is enough revenue from iPhones and iPads to fill a significant amount of an [IBM] rep’s quota…. In reality there won’t be 100,000 people actively selling and developing iPad and iPhone solutions.”

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What Ross Rubin, consumer tech blogger and principal analyst at Reticle Research, wrote on CNet: “The new partnership between Apple and IBM will help, in the short term, to get more of Apple’s products into corporations. In the longer term, it could help Apple’s cloud efforts as well… The partnership is a warning shot to Microsoft, which controls a broad swath of corporate computing in contrast to the high-end kinds of outsourcing and integration tasks that are the heart of Big Blue’s business.”

What Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Brian White thinks: “With great mobile device experiences for consumers now available, we often ask ourselves why so many people remain handcuffed to inferior mobile devices in the workplace that not only reduces efficiency but also increases frustration. We believe tonight’s announcement could represent the beginning of an initiative to free workers from inferior mobile experiences and open up new opportunities for enterprise productivity.”

What Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster thinks: “We do not expect the IBM partnership to have a meaningful impact on Apple’s financials overall primarily based on our belief that large corporations are already utilizing iPhones. We believe overall that IBM will add incremental functionality for corporate customers, but is unlikely to be the make or break factor for a large corporation in utilizing iOS.”

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