Apple takes aim at the enterprise, now joined at the hip with IBM

16 Jul 2014

IBM chief executive Ginni Rometty and Apple chief executive Tim Cook

Apple has forged a global partnership with IBM in a move that will open the Californian technology player up to opportunities in the lucrative enterprise space and see IBM sell iPhones and iPads optimised for enterprise mobility.

Enterprise, often seen as the dull and less-than-sexy side of tech where trends such as big data, virtualisation, storage and servers are the order of the day, is nevertheless the real meat and potatoes of the tech industry.

While smartphones and tablet computers are the glossy side of tech, the very fabric of our lives – from lights switching on to ATMs spitting out your cash and X-ray machines functioning in hospitals – depends on the complex enterprise platforms underpinning it all.

Striking right at the heartland of the tech industry, the bare metal, with a powerful ally such as IBM, Apple will not only will send shivers down the spine of Google but threaten even Microsoft’s very existence.

Superficially, Apple has already been a success in the enterprise space, with trends such as bring your own device (BYOD), making iPhones and iPads the tech de jour for C-suite executives.

But increasingly, if you’ve studied Apple’s performance at its Worldwide Developers Conference last month and specifically the complexity and density of not only the forthcoming Mac OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 operating systems, Apple wants to be the very fabric of ubiquitous internet of things computing and trends not only in the smart home, smart car, smart lifestyle, but the very core of the smart enterprise.

To boldly go beyond BYOD

But delving deep with Big Blue (aka, IBM) means Apple is making a serious play across a range of spheres spanning productivity right through to big data analytics.

Under the new partnership entitled ‘IBM MobileFirst for iOS agreement’, the two companies will come up with a new class of more than 100 industry-specific solutions, including native iPhone and iPad apps for industries such as retail, healthcare, telecoms, transport, insurance and many more.

Apple will also use unique IBM cloud services optimised for iOS, including device management, security, analytics and mobile integration.

IBM will also sell iPhones and iPads with industry-specific solutions, powered by big data, to businesses around the world.

“iPhone and iPad are the best mobile devices in the world and have transformed the way people work, with over 98pc of the Fortune 500 and over 92pc of the Global 500 using iOS devices in their business today,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO.

“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. This is a radical step for enterprise and something that only Apple and IBM can deliver.”

Into the real tech heartland

The key area for concern for rivals such as Microsoft – which would have traditionally viewed IBM as one of its enterprise bastions – is the fact that now 100,000 IBM consultants around the world will be pushing iOS as the primary window for viewing big data.

For Microsoft, embarrassing missteps like ignoring the iPhone when it first arrived might have been forgiven because the attitude may have been that Apple would never go for enterprise, thereby leaving the lucrative enterprise heartland safe from attack.

Well it’s D-Day and Fortress Enterprise will come under attack in a number of interesting ways. Firstly, IBM will deliver AppleCare for Enterprise that includes 24×7 tech assistance and on-site services for IT departments. IBM is also introducing a new MobileFirst Supply and Management service with iPhone and iPad leasing options.

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 catalogue, 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 Bluemix – IBM’s development platform on the IBM Cloud Marketplace.

“Mobility – combined with the phenomena of data and cloud – is transforming business and our industry in historic ways, allowing people to re-imagine work, industries and professions,” said Ginni Rometty, IBM chairman, president and CEO.

“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. 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,” Rommety said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years