When two IT giants for a partnership one thing is certain: Industry observers will go overboard trying to make it into an earth-shaking event.
Here, for example, is ComputerWorld U.S. columnist Ryan Faas on the IBM-Apple mobile marriage: “This will change the dynamic of the enterprise mobility market in significant ways. In many respects, the joint press release the two companies issued doesn’t convey the potential scale of this partnership.”
Well, why not? After all, it capitalizes on one of the big trends these days, mobility, which is expected to be an industry driver for a few years.
And it covers apps. Who doesn’t need more apps — not consumer apps but business-related apps aimed at visualizing tons of data (sorry, petabytes of data) collecting dust in corporate storage arrays.
IBM is a huge force in analytic and back office integration, Apple makes the coveted iPhone and iPad. Is this a marriage made for profit or what?
Maybe. Earlier this year the Yankee Group put out a report predicting that mobile enterprise ecosystem wars were about to begin because enterprises need integrated mobile solutions across devices, apps and management platforms. Apple, Samsung, Microsoft and BlackBerry were preparing for it. Microsoft struck first with its Enterprise Mobility Suite, although it hasn’t been fleshed out. Apple’s choice of IBM brings in a partner with broader application and integration consulting expertise at the enterprise level.
On the other hand, most enterprise-sized organizations have already made decisions on mobile strategy, including what devices are allowed on the network and the mobile device management platform. Will they dismantle that in favour of an IBM solution?
Chris Marsh, principal analyst at 451 Research, argued in a commentary after the pact was announced that even larger enterprises have only deployed a handful of mobile applications. “The barriers to more expansive deployments have been significant and more related to infrastructural than just security alone. The bigger news here, therefore, than the number of applications being worked on is the potential for [IBM's] MobileFirst for iOS to become an integrated enterprise mobile infrastructure tightly integrated with mobile hardware, paving the way for enterprises’ own custom development of more mobile applications.”
An industry analyst once told me that generally enterprises that rely on IBM infrastructure are the types who trust Big Blue to assemble solutions for them. They customer outlines the problem, IBM specialists/partners put together the hardware and software to solve it. If so, Apple chose its partner well.
Faas echoes this by saluting IBM’s expertise in everything from app development, back-end infrastructure, big data and analytics, logistics, cloud solutions, network and device security, business process transformation, project management …
“To make something that spans two companies or two divisions within a company work well you need a common set of goals and management that prioritizes those goals over conflicting goals that the entities individually favor,” industry analyst Rob Enderle told me. For instance, he said, the heart of the failure of Windows 8 was was because the Office Division’s goal of maximizing revenue overcame what should have been the company goal of pushing people to the new interface. As a result Win8 had to include the obsolete interface so Office continued to work. Rather than an asset, he argued, Office became the major liability.
“Without strong central leadership a broad end to end initiative like this will likely fail because the two firms, which are much farther apart than the Microsoft divisions I used in my example, will prioritize things in conflict (like creating other partnerships like this one for IBM, or enhancing their own cloud offerings away from IBM for Apple) and the end result will be weakened or fail.
“EMC is the only company that appears to have figured out how to do this kind of thing well with their VCE effort (VMware, Cisco, EMC), something both Apple and IBM might want to consider as a potentially more successful path
Of course, what isn’t known is the price customers will have to pay for an IBM-Apple solution. Presumably, IBM won’t want to price itself out of the market, but it’s still early days. CIOs should make sure that the solution they chose is right for their organization’s business goals