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IBM, Apple Join Hands as Unlikely Enterprise Partners

By Chris Preimesberger     Feedback

NEWS ANALYSIS: Apple also has been trying to move into the enterprise for a long time, a place IBM has owned for more than 60 years.

Who would have thought that Apple and IBM, of all companies, would huddle up and come out with a game plan to develop applications and sell smartphones together? On July 15, that actually happened.

Come to think of it, it's a wonder this didn't happen before now, it seems so much a no-brainer.

Look at the facts: a) these are two of the most powerful and successful IT-related businesses on the globe, with great expertise at their fingertips; b) IBM has longstanding and well-trusted big data and analytics capabilities; and c) Apple has the iPhones and iPads increasingly favored by employees to use those capabilities in the workplace and in the field.

Apple in the Enterprise, Where It Wants to Be

Apple also has been trying to move into the enterprise for a long time, a place IBM has owned for more than 60 years.

Add them all up and you've got a potential blockbuster partnership, since IBM has never succeeded in phones or tablets and Apple has never made big data analytics and other enterprise software. For years a generation ago, IBM and Apple skirmished on the laptop battlegrounds, but that's ancient history now with the zenith of the desktop PC in the rear-view mirror.

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So, with the July 15  revelation that Apple and IBM will team up to do business, a new covenant has been drawn up to create easy-to-use business apps and deploy them on iPhones and iPads to enterprise users around the globe -- where Android devices are currently king.

In a joint statement released July 15 by both companies, IBM and Apple said that the partnership will "redefine the way work will get done, address key industry mobility challenges and spark true mobile-led business change."

'Historic Deal,' Cook Says

"This deal is historic. It's huge, it's landmark," Apple CEO Tim Cook said in an interview on the CNBC cable network. "This is all about transforming the enterprise. We are just thrilled."

Cook said the two companies have been working on the partnership for about two years.

"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," Cook said.

IBM Chairman and CEO Ginni Rometty said the move would mean "growth for both our companies, and this idea of remaking business and re-envisioning and reimagining professions is all about unlocking mobility in the enterprise."

First Projects to Be Undertaken

Specifically, the new agreement will provide:

--A new mobile platform, the IBM MobileFirst Platform for iOS. This will deliver end-to-end enterprise capability, from analytics, workflow and cloud storage, to fleet-scale device management, security and integration. It will include 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 Bluemix—IBM's development platform on the IBM Cloud Marketplace.

--The development of more than 100 industry-specific enterprise solutions, including native apps, developed exclusively from the ground up, for iPhone and iPad.

--New mobile service and support: AppleCare for Enterprise will provide IT departments and users with 24/7 assistance from Apple's award-winning customer support group, with on-site service delivered by IBM.

--New "packaged offerings" from IBM for mobile device activation, supply and management.

--A new IBM MobileFirst for iOS agreement will enable IBM to sell iPhones and iPads with "industry-specific solutions" to business clients worldwide.

The new software and services are expected to be rolled out in stages during the next year.

Skeptical Analyst Not Impressed

At least one respected analyst was skeptical of the news.

"It may not be prudent to take this announcement at its face value," wrote Trip Chowdhry, managing director of Equity Research at Global Equities Research, in a media advisory. "We are skeptical about the timing of the deal, which makes us wonder if IBM, and maybe even AAPL are going to miss their revenue expectations.

"It is something out of ordinary for both Apple as well as IBM to make such an announcement, while both companies are in their quiet period. IBM is only two days away from its earnings announcement, while Apple is only 1.5 weeks away from its earnings announcement. The timing of this announcement makes us feel that IBM will very likely miss their revenue expectations and probably Apple may also miss their revenue expectations."

"Based on our research, we are skeptical to think of today's 'IBM + Apple' announcement is coming from the point of mutual strength. We think it is more likely coming more from an industry reaction and from a position of mutual weakness."

This conversation is just getting started.

This article was originally published on July 15, 2014
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