Apple and IBM Storm the Enterprise

on July 15, 2014

The news Apple and IBM have joined forces to deliver a powerful new business approach to the enterprise is the shot heard round the IT world. This global deal, where IBM in essence becomes a VAR (value added reseller) for Apple and includes IBM porting more than 150 of their IT apps and tools exclusively to iOS for use in full native mode, will give IBM more tools in their mobile arsenal as well as provide Apple a stronger foothold in the enterprise — beyond anything they could have ever imagined. Even though Apple’s iPad represents 73% of tablets in the enterprise and the iPhone also has a substantial position in IT, this partnership with IBM helps solidify that iOS is the OS for business tablets and smartphones and gives them a huge edge over their competition.

These IBM tools include MDM, security, and integration with all types of back end systems as well as powerful analytics and the ability to provide a lot of new services over the next 18 months to their customers as well as Apple’s IT buyers. While Apple will handle the 24/7 phone and cloud support, the deal calls for IBM to handle on-site service as needed. Think about this for a second. The big knock on Apple is they were not seen as being serious about the enterprise. Now they have a worldwide sales force and support organization to take the iPad and iPhones directly to the customer as well as provide the tools, back end integration, security and support for just about any IT operation anywhere in the world.

This is not good news for the Android crowd. Google, and especially Samsung, had been on a course to try and get more Android devices into IT. However, this Apple/IBM deal will make that very, very difficult now and, if the deal works as designed, it could pretty much upstage any opportunity Android devices have in any future enterprise programs. This will also have an impact on Microsoft’s quest to make Win 8 tablets and smartphones the de facto standard in IT. That would have been a tough thing to do even if Apple and IBM had not gotten together, but it will be even more difficult for them to gain a lot of ground with Windows 8 mobile devices in IT now.

This doesn’t mean Win 8 or even Android devices will be locked out of IT. Indeed Google, Samsung, Microsoft and other tablet and smartphone makers will still try and gain ground in the enterprise with what they offer today and in the future. However, this IBM/Apple partnership, with its hardware, software, IT tools and services will make it tougher for them to compete directly in accounts Apple and IBM will attack together.

In a meeting with Apple and IBM officials, it became clear both companies are excited about this partnership and, more importantly, are committed to making it work. The stakes are high for both of them. For IBM, a commitment to iOS allows them to become even more responsive and creative in how they deliver total solutions for the enterprise. For Apple, it assures iOS devices aimed at the enterprise will gain more traction and help keep them well ahead of the competition for many years to come.

This is a big deal. I have worked on IT projects that included IBM sales and services over the years and they have a world class organization that garners great respect within the enterprise. In fact, they invoke a level of trust in IT that is tough to beat. IBM’s endorsement of iOS and the devices that use it speaks a lot to how much they respect Apple’s technology and are willing to stand behind these products as part of their major IT solutions programs. Given the power and clout of both companies, I suspect this will become one of the most important and powerful tech partnerships we have ever seen.

There is great irony in this announcement. IBM started the PC revolution and Apple tried to play David to IBM’s Goliath when Apple introduced the Mac. That time, Goliath and its clones won. In fact, early IBMers discounted Apple’s original Apple II. Later, IBM was convinced they could beat Apple’s Mac once it hit the market. Of course, IBM and the clones dominated the market for decades and only recently has Apple really gained major ground in the PC market. However, the iPad and iPhone were game changers for Apple and the industry and now the company that created the PC revolution is coming full circle by partnering with Apple. More importantly, by embracing Apple’s iOS products and making them a strategic part of their enterprise programs, it actually brings them back into the client business — a business they sold off to Lenovo almost a decade ago. I suspect Steve Jobs has a big grin on his face up in the sky.