Why the Apple/IBM partnership is a Bigger Deal than I Imagined

I spent the last few days in Las Vegas at IBM’s annual Interconnect customer conference where they shared with 23,000 attendees the latest and greatest technology coming from Big Blue. It is one of the largest customer events I go to and I always enjoy hearing about things like Watson, BlueMix and all the various products and services they offer their clients.

My own history with IBM dates back to the early 1980s. Right after I joined Creative Strategies, one of my first major consulting projects was with their original PC team and I helped them do the research for what became their original distribution strategy. This project allowed me to work with the father of the IBM PC, Don Estridge, and his team and I got to see the birth of the PC industry up close and personal.

Of course, over the last 30 years IBM has evolved dramatically. They are now almost exclusively a software and services company that provides all types of products for large enterprises around the world. Although I have not dealt with IBM a lot in the last 15 years, given their new focus and our research being more consumer related, I began to take more interest in them again when they developed a major partnership with Apple and decided to support Mac’s and iOS in a big way.

One of IBM’s major initiatives is called Mobile First and it pertains to creating mobile solutions for their customers. As IBM began this journey into mobile, they found many of their customers had iPhones, iPads and Macs. It became clear that, if they really wanted to make headway with a mobile first program, they would need help from Apple. Once they approached Apple and got to see their mobile roadmap and how the iPhone and iPad were getting serious traction in the enterprise, IBM made the big decision to port all of their mobile apps to iOS in order to support their customers at all levels of need.

The result is IBM is now offering over 100 iOS apps for use on iPhones and iPads in the enterprise and giving their customers very powerful mobile solutions that help them integrate mobile apps and solutions into their overall IT programs. I got to see some of the apps and they are amazingly powerful. One interesting one is for aviation pilots. It allows them to manage fuel, does the calculations, and allows them to adjust the plane’s use of it automatically. Another one was focused on how a major European airline uses it to handle priority bookings for their premium customers who miss connections and can be booked on a new or different flights even when they are in the air approaching the first airport to make further connections.

Ultimately, all of these mobile-first apps on iOS gives IBM more latitude for meeting the needs of a huge customer base and endears them as a trusted vendor to a worldwide base of IT professionals. But there is another part of this deal that is equally big and, while it was announced when the partnership was launched, I don’t think most understand why this makes the relationship with IBM so big.

As part of the deal, IBM has become a reseller of all Apple hardware. But not only a reseller-an actual sales arm for Apple that represents their hardware and walks them in to big accounts as part of a full-service solution. I talked with some of the IBM mobile team and it was clear that having this broad relationship with Apple is very strategic to their overall IT solutions since almost all of their customers have some form of mobile solutions in their enterprise mix. While they also support Android mobile devices to a degree, they have not ported their mobile first apps to Android yet and prefer optioning an Apple solution whenever possible. That means Apple is more than just a partner, they are a preferred part of IBM for mobile solutions and this makes this relationship an even bigger deal than many of us thought at the beginning.

One other thing that was really remarkable about Interconnect is in the opening keynote, they had Brian Croll, VP of Worldwide Marketing for Mac and iOS at Apple do a presentation of their SWIFT programming language. It let this audience know this significant programming tool from Apple can be used to create custom software much more easily as part of any solution IBM and an IT shop are working on together. He also explained it has been made an open source project so it could be used for all types of software programming and in any type of project in the future. Apple’s presence in this keynote clearly reinforced their commitment to Apple and in a not-to-subtle way made it clear Apple was a serious partner with IBM.

It was made clear to me IBM has become Apple’s literal salesforce into the enterprise in a highly visible, calculable and strategic way and this partnership is highly profitable to IBM and, in turn, is very profitable for Apple as well. While we may think of Apple more as a consumer company, thanks to this IBM partnership, Apple is just as much an enterprise company and, with IBM’s continued help, this should help Apple grow their enterprise business exponentially in the future.

Published by

Tim Bajarin

Tim Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. He is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin has been with Creative Strategies since 1981 and has served as a consultant to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry including IBM, Apple, Xerox, Compaq, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft, Polaroid, Lotus, Epson, Toshiba and numerous others.

2 thoughts on “Why the Apple/IBM partnership is a Bigger Deal than I Imagined”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *