IBM Leads Apple Into the Corporate Market

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.

Published by

Steve Wildstrom

Steve Wildstrom is veteran technology reporter, writer, and analyst based in the Washington, D.C. area. He created and wrote BusinessWeek’s Technology & You column for 15 years. Since leaving BusinessWeek in the fall of 2009, he has written his own blog, Wildstrom on Tech and has contributed to corporate blogs, including those of Cisco and AMD and also consults for major technology companies.

5 thoughts on “IBM Leads Apple Into the Corporate Market”

  1. From a user perspective, Apple is now too successful. Until a few months ago when you called for tech support, you’d be connected to an advisor within 1 minute. But now they have so many customers that every time I call, the estimated wait time is “15 minutes or longer.” The “longer” part is what’s scary…I don’t want to sit on the phone for 1/2 hour. This is a result of *way* too many people calling them.

    I’ve given up on calling Apple, and now when I need tech support I go to their Website and arrange for them to call me.

    1. Apple has incredible genius for service and support. –

      “…when I need tech support I go to their Website and arrange for them to call me.”

      Who in consumer electronics (or any widget maker) has one point of support that calls you when asked?

  2. There’s always been such a corporate fear of making sure solutions worked everywhere, that we’ve ended up with a lowest-common-denominator approach. An unfortunate result.

    This partnership has the opportunity to create a situation where companies choose to develop for iOS but not other platforms. While I’m probably not writing this as best I could, if you look at the IBM apps released last week, you might wonder “when can I get that on Android?”. In the past, some customer would have made that question a big issue, or some manager at IBM would have said “we have to do it all”… now not so much, I imagine.

    It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out for all involved.


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