The last time Apple and IBM did serious business, the companies were fighting over the processors that powered the Macs of the day. IBM had no interest in meeting Apple’s desire for G5 chips for laptops and the end of the quarrel pushed Apple to Intel (and fabulous success for Macs).
Almost a decade later, when Apple has grown far larger than IBM, the company that now mainly sells corporate services is in another partnership with Apple. With the deal revealed in detail on Dec. 10, IBM will be selling iPhones and iPads to its industrial services customers and supplying them with secured, Apple-designed iOS business services.
For Apple, this is largely a payoff of iOS 8. A key step in the operating system was the redesign of the security operating structure. Of course, the attention has been focused on how Apple Pay is structured. But the improved security design can support a broad range of applications, including corporate security desires.
Although Apple acts as though the consumer market is the only thing it really cares about, when it comes to the iPhone and the iPad, the corporate market has looked increasingly attractive. Corporate employees have lots of Apple mobile devices, usually bought on their own (though often snuck into the T&E budget). Apple and IBM are now creating iPhone and iPad-based offerings with IBM corporate services installed.
Secure applications have been difficult to provide for Android since Google has mostly left the development of security features to manufacturers. Samsung has attempted a service called Knox but it has sold poorly and the company is rumored to be hoping Google will take over security in a future Android version. With Android struggling and corporations generally moving away from BlackBerry’s offerings, Apple has a huge advantage.
That gives the Apple-IBM partnership a big opening. The IBM service, called MobileFirst, starts with programs aimed at key industry partners. The travel and transportation offerings include Plan Flight, a fuel expense management program and Passengers+, which provides rebooking, baggage information, and special services in-flight. Advice & Grow provides small business with financial communications, while Trusted Advice allows advisors to get confidential information on customers’ investments even when they are away from their secure office machines. Other initial applications are designed for insurance, government, retail, and telecommunications. Applications for additional industries are coming.
From “frenemies” to full scale partners, the Apple-IBM history has been fascinating to watch. With this latest association, it promises to bring more to the table for both companies and make the rest of the industry take notice.