Apple, IBM partner in hopes of making mobile enterprise powerhouse

Two of IT’s biggest companies had a problem: Apple wanted to get deeper into the enterprise, where iPhones have been elbowing BlackBerry’s out of the way since they hit the market. Meanwhile IBM needed a better mobile play than device management.

The solution is a marriage of sorts, which was announced Tuesday, which will give CIOs and CSOs more of a reason to put iOS devices on the corporate approved list.

The exclusive partnership promises to create

  • more than 100 industry-specific enterprise solutions including native apps, developed exclusively from the ground up, for iPhone and iPad;
  • IBM cloud services optimized for iOS, including device management, security, analytics and mobile integration;
  • new AppleCare service and support offering tailored to the needs of the enterprise;  and
  • new packaged offerings from IBM for device activation, supply and management.

As part of the deal IBM and its partners will also sell iPhones and iPads with the industry-specific solutions to business clients worldwide.

A number of industry analysts believe this could hurt BlackBerry, which is struggling to keep enterprise customers in an era when staff are allowed to bring their own devices.

“BlackBerry used to say that Apple’s not really an enterprise player,” Carl Howe of the Yankee Group said in an interview. “You can’t say that about IBM.”

To even the playing field Howe thinks BlackBerry should consider a partnership with a services company like Accenture, or even SAP.

Usually enterprises have had to cobble together mobile device management, application management and security solutions from several suppliers, he added. The Apple-IBM partnership means organizations will have one place to find a “soup to nuts” solution — applications, management and device leasing.

In many ways it will give CIOs or enterprise telecom buyers “a much warmer feeling about dealing with an Apple solution,” said analyst Rob Enderle. “You trust IBM to do the back end and assure the security of the product and that it meets IT’s requirements.” Many organizations were driven against their wishes to include Apple devices in their mobile strategies by employees, he said. “IBM potentially makes a solution paletable.”

The partnership “makes both companies stronger in the enterprise,” he added, giving IBM a client device it lost after selling its PC division to Lenovo, and gives Apple an “approved path” into organizations and a lever against policies forbidding iOS devices.

As for BlackBerry, “it’s not really great news,” Enderle said — except that it re-affirms that a mobile vendor has to have an enterprise focus to be successful, and the Canadian company has that.

Apple has resisted servicing enterprises for fear of losing its focus on top quality user experience, said Forrester Research analyst Frank Gillet. “But rise of the mobile mind shift, the expectation of solving problems on the go from a mobile device, has compelled Apple to partner with IBM to address enterprise needs fully.

“The Apple IBM partnership is a landmark agreement. Given IBM’s market strength and coverage, this partnership gives Apple enterprise capabilities and credibility at one stroke — and gives IBM a premium advantage in the race for mobile enterprise leadership. Look for Google and leading enterprise suppliers to seek partnerships that offer a credible alternative.”

Both companies will benefit,  said Ezra Gottheil, a principal analyst at Technology Business Research. “Apple increases its business presence, at the expense of Android, Windows, and Blackberry. IBM extends the utility of its analytics solutions, and gains from sales of management and security solutions for the iPhones and iPads. Neither company gives up anything. IBM may make similar partnerships with Android device vendors, but Apple’s strong presence, and the uniting of both software and hardware in one vendor that can deliver superior service, make it the easiest platform to begin with.”

The companies will collaborate to build what IBM will call MobileFirst for iOS Solutions— business applications targeting specific industry issues or opportunities in retail, healthcare, banking, travel and transportation, telecommunications and insurance, among others. They will become available starting this fall.

Among the first will be MobileFirst Supply and Management for device supply, activation and management services for iPhone and iPad.

The IBM MobileFirst Platform for iOS will deliver the services required for an end-to-end enterprise capability, from analytics, workflow and cloud storage, to fleet-scale device management, security and integration. Enhanced mobile management includes a private app catalog, data and transaction security services, and productivity suite for all IBM MobileFirst for iOS solutions. In addition to on-premise software solutions, all these services will be available on IBM’s Bluemix cloud development platform.

From Apple (Nasdaq: APPL), AppleCare for Enterprise will provide IT departments and end users with 24/7 assistance from Apple’s award-winning customer support group, with on-site service delivered by IBM (NYSE: IBM).

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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