Why the Apple/IBM partnership should worry traditional PC vendors

For the past 30 years, the OEMs who make Windows PCs have dominated the enterprise landscape. Although Apple has had a place in enterprise, this came mostly by way of Macs used in graphics and publishing departments and in various engineering applications. But when Apple introduced the iPad, many in the IT community embraced the product and iPads quickly became the tablet of record in many enterprises. 

However, while the iPad hit a nerve in corporations, Apple’s ability to truly sell into and support the enterprise use of iPads in big business was always a concern. Sure, Apple made it possible for big companies to control downloads of dedicated corporate apps so they did not have to come from Apple’s store and servers, but Apple’s inability to really support IT often became problematic when it came to growing their presence in IT.

With the IBM deal, Apple gained a very important partner who not only gave them more credibility in the enterprise but a partner that could sell and service these iPads and Macs in large accounts and help Apple compete with the big PC vendors for coveted IT budgets.

At the same time, Apple is making serious strides in selling Macs across the board. Last quarter, Apple sold five million Macs worldwide, an increase of one million more than the same quarter in 2013. 

When the Apple/IBM deal was announced, I met with Apple and IBM executives and was surprised at how well thought out and sophisticated the deal was as well as the commitment of IBM to port their powerful mobile apps to IOS. This week, we got a glimpse of the first software fruits of their partnership. They go right to the heart of meeting key corporate needs. Here are the key apps introduced this week:

• Plan Flight (Travel and Transportation) addresses the major expense of all airlines—fuel—permitting pilots to view flight schedules, flight plans, and crew manifests ahead of time, report issues in-flight to ground crews, and make more informed decisions about discretionary fuel.

• Passenger+ (Travel and Transportation) empowers flight crews to offer an unmatched level of personalized services to passengers in-flight—including special offers, re-booking, and baggage information.

• Advise & Grow (Banking and Financial Markets) puts bankers on premise with their small business clients, with secure authorization to access client profiles and competitive analyses, gather analytics-driven insights to make personalized recommendations, and complete secure transactions.

• Trusted Advice (Banking and Financial Markets) allows advisors to access and manage client portfolios, gain insight from powerful predictive analytics—in the client’s kitchen or at the local coffee shop, rather than the advisor’s office—with full ability to test recommendations with sophisticated modeling tools all the way to complete, secure transactions.

• Retention (Insurance) empowers agents with access to customers’ profiles and history, including an analytics-driven retention risk score as well as smart alerts, reminders, and recommendations on next best steps and facilitation of key transactions like collection of e-signatures and premiums.

• Case Advice (Government) addresses the issue of workload and support among caseworkers who are making critical decisions, one family or situation at a time, on the go. The solution adjusts case priorities based on real time analytics-driven insights, and assesses risk based on predictive analysis.

• Incident Aware (Government) converts an iPhone into a vital crime prevention asset, presenting law enforcement officers with real time access to maps and video feeds of incident locations; information about victim status, escalation risk, and crime history; and improved ability to call for back up and supporting services.

• Sales Assist (Retail) enables associates to connect with customer profiles, make suggestions based on previous purchases and current selections, check inventory, locate items in-store, and ship out-of-store items.

• Pick & Pack (Retail) combines proximity-based technology with back end inventory systems for transformed order fulfillment.

• Expert Tech (Telecommunications) taps into native iOS capabilities including FaceTime for easy access to expertise and location services for route optimization to deliver superior on-site service, more effective issue resolution and productivity as well as improved customer satisfaction.

Keep in mind, these are apps for Apple’s tablet and smartphones. Apple’s competitors with Android tablets and smartphones don’t have anything even close by way of secure or equal apps to compete with this. While Windows on something like a Surface Pro has similar software, there are no Windows OS tablet apps that do the same thing and there probably never will be. In fact, I doubt we will even see Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 apps capable of these same features.

When I met with IBM and Apple just before the original announcement, they told me they would have over 100 powerful IT apps ported to IOS within the first year. More importantly, they emphasized how serious they were at joining forces to provide new mobile solutions to IBM’s current customers as well as new ones.

The release of these apps is just the tip of the this deal’s iceberg. When the OEMs first heard of this partnership, they were intrigued but two of them told me they were not concerned. I think that is a mistake. Apple got serious about enterprise not long after the launch of the iPad but did not have the right channels, support or even enterprise class apps to service the IT market by themselves. Now, with IBM creating the software and providing the sales and support staff and the PC vendors bumping heads directly with IBM/Apple joint sales teams on competing accounts, they are seeing a serious competitor going after their clients. 

Lenovo, Dell and HP still have an edge when it comes to providing a total solution that requires servers but, even with that, IBM is still very server savvy even if their server business is now in the hands of Lenovo. I have heard of at least two major bids in which third party servers could easily be integrated into an IBM/Apple mobile solution. 

I see IBM and Apple making serious inroads into the enterprise in 2015 and providing some interesting dynamics in a market still dominated by the big PC vendors but one that could become lucrative for the Apple and IBM partnership in the new year.

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.

31 thoughts on “Why the Apple/IBM partnership should worry traditional PC vendors”

  1. “While Windows on something like a Surface Pro has similar software, there are no Windows OS tablet apps that do the same thing and there probably never will be. In fact, I doubt we will even see Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 apps capable of these same features.”

    You pretty much said that there’s Windows software that is similar. That means that the data and analytics backends exist. Mobility exists, in the Surface (and Android) tablets, as well as in phones. If this were important enough, don’t you think that MS, or Oracle, or someone else, could deliver these tablet Apps over a “weekend”?

    1. The key differentiator is capability and portability. Even if the back-end data already exists it’s the front-end that takes precedence. A well-built, easy to grasp app means less time/resources spent on training and more, higher productivity.

      Let’s be honest, Windows Phones and Windows 8 apps are nonexistent in the mobile space. No one’s buying their phones and what little success Microsoft is having with Surface is overshadowed by Apple’s success in mobile and Macs.

      As I continue to say, the double entendre of the Microsoft world is that “Microsoft isn’t going anywhere”. They’ll remain a major player in the market but their relevance and role in the future of computing has been demonstrably and dramatically reduced.

      1. “Let’s be honest, Windows Phones and Windows 8 apps are nonexistent in the mobile space.”

        True. This does not mean that they can’t become significant in the corporate space. What really matters is the hardware form factor to give the requisite mobility. Also, Tim was speaking specifically about Windows tablets, that’s true, but other tablets (including Android) can work for what is essentially an input/output device in these scenarios. The value proposition for the enterprise “might” look like this… (It would if I were CIO)

        a) I’m going to buy x machines. How much?
        b) What software will they run. How much?
        c) Can my IT code for them? If they can, that IP is company property.
        d) Can I sell those home grown programs to others? To whom am I beholden?
        e) How many devices can I kill if I buy these? What is my cost savings? My ROI?

        Whoever is doing the selling needs to win every sale.

        Anyway, my remark was on the relative technical difficulty. It’s the enterprise back-end that’s the hard part. That’s what IBM is bringing to the Appe/IBM party.

        Then we come to something more obscure, but I fear will become more relevant. That would be cross-platform viruses. Macs and iOS devices are notorious for not running a security suite. They feel they don’t need it, and wear that as a badge of honor. It may indeed be good for them, but when in a heterogeneous network, they can be carriers for Windows malware. The plot WILL thicken. There’s bad guys out there…

        1. With all due respect, the first rule of debate is debating with facts or at least verified and plausible hypotheses based on credible historical data. Saying that Microsoft can make a major play in mobile and that viruses are the sleeping giant to Apple’s inevitable downfall is the talk of folly.

          While most CIO’s would ask these questions this is hardly a list representative of every company looking to consolidate their mobile device fleet. There’s also the matter of selling on value rather than price alone. I don’t know if you have any sales experience but any successful sales person will tell you that people don’t buy with their heads, they buy with their hearts.

          If you can sell the experience, an experience that can’t be had in any other way and from any other product, the customer will throw money at you to get it.

          Ask yourself this question: would anyone concerned with ROI really buy a Maybach?

          I’m not saying a Mac or iPhone is a Maybach but there are certain purchases that transcend cost. If you want the best possible experience price isn’t a factor.

          1. Also respectfully. Here’s some facts:

            A pretty good overview:

            OSX to iOS:

            Lest you think I’m picking on Apple, this isn’t a partisan issue:

            Or even a computer issue:

            As state sponsored hacking has demonstrated, this can only get worse.

            As far as “experience” goes, maybe for the CEO’s vanity. The workers will get what gets results cheaply. There is also all the pesky “permissions” from certain vendors to which IT may not be amenable, such as a revocable developer’s license. In reality, I see Apple having better success at “IBM shops”. HP shops, Oracle shops, Linux shops, maybe not as much.

          2. I apologize in advance if I eluded that Apple products are immune to ANY attack. No system is impervious to viruses/malware though Apple’s wares are extremely low on the totem pole for those types of issues in comparison to Windows.

            Having said that finding a whole two stories about Apple vulnerabilities — both centered around going way outside normal Apple channels — is not the indictment of security you’re painting it to be. The first issue is isolated in Japan only and the other, Wirelurker, hasn’t been a major point of contention since it’s been discussed exactly zero times since it was discovered. I’d wager that Apple’s likely already addressed Wireluker with its latest patch that, unlike Windows, requires constant and consistent reboots.

            As for CEO’s making purchases based solely on money, well, from what I hear Apple will soon offer a subscription-based purchasing model for iPhones and iPads thus eliminating another barrier for businesses desiring to ‘go Apple’.

            I’m hoping you’ll expand on your comment when you said, “What really matters is the hardware form factor to give the requisite mobility.”

            If we’re talking about form factor and mobility I don’t think there’s a better solution than an iPad or a MacBook Air. The Surface Pro 3 is a worthy competitor but it’s too big to be a tablet you’d hold for extended periods of time like the iPad Air 2.

            On the laptop side of things the Surface Pro 3 isn’t a clamshell meaning you’ll have to set it on a flat surface for it be of any real use. With a MacBook Air you could hold the entire unit with one hand and type (hen-peck-style) with the other. That’s just not possible with the Surface Pro 3. It’s barely stable in a laptop for a device designed to be “the tablet that can replace your laptop”.

      2. Mark, your double entendre is the best summary of Microsoft’s situation today. I wish them the best in going somewhere. Until then then, your assessment is spot on.

    2. I won’t speak for Tim, but there is more to having a usable, saleable tablet app then a simple port. There are many software titles that run fine on a mouse/keyboard device that will have to be completely redesigned to be just as useful on a tablet.

      And let’s not pretend that the keyboard/touchpad on the Surface will bridge this gap. Just ask yourself: “why not simply use a laptop if your going to require a keyboard/ pointing cursor?”

      Quality software on a touch device requires a little more thought than a weekend. Unless you want to try and compete with a laughable, me-too pile-of-unusable-crap (here I could insert a cliche about how Windows users are used-to & fully tolerant of such software, but I will abstain… Still, wouldn’t it have been hilarious?).

      1. I submit to you that the full screen, single application, tablet user interface is a relatively easy thing if you have the back-end systems. We will be arguing about fonts.

          1. When you look at apps on computers that are designed by businesses, for businesses, they often are very poorly designed. At least the few I’ve seen. If you can force someone to use and learn an app because it is part of their job, then why spend lots of money and effort to make it easy to use?

          2. Very good point. Thanks for clarifying.
            They would make it easy to use because it helps their workers do their jobs better, if they don’t they do so at their own peril. Again, this is more critical in some kinds of applications than other’s.

            Look at AutoCAD. An abomination of an interface if ever there was one. But once learned, it’s next to impossible to budge. Same could be said about Photoshop. Skilled workers have already gotten past the learning curve, in part, that’s why they’re skilled. I don’t necessarily want just anyone designing a bridge on AutoCAD any more than I want just anyone flying a plane. You know, ’cause it’s easy… 😉

          3. These are both very complicated apps for skilled workers whose job is primarily the use of the app. The better you are at using Photoshop or AutoCAD, the better you are at your job. However, I think the business apps here are secondary or tertiary to the main job of the employee. They will be used for a few minutes here and there to make the employee more productive. These type of apps, usually database front ends are cluttered and require an inordinate number of clicks and options. I remember when I was exchanging currency at the local Credit Union, a new employee was training. It took her an her trainer three or four minutes to go through and figure out how to perform the transaction on the computer system. It was a go 10 to 12 clicks and different options and I glanced at it. It was confusing. This is where Apple and IBM will clean up.

          4. I see your point. Would that require one to be an IBM shop? Remember, it needs to interface to the backend. Maybe that’s a trivial matter, maybe not, I don’t know.

          5. I think Apple is just working with IBM in a few general areas (they say up to 100 apps by the end of the first year), where IBM either controls or there is open access to the back ends. I don’t think that Apple will work with them on custom solutions for individual companies. My school division works with IBM on running our school networks, we have some IBM educational solutions in place, and the IBM only apps are mediocre design. They work, they are generally logical, but there is nothing about them that would make them stand out as being great.

          6. It isn’t trivial, but it isn’t difficult either. If the data exists, it can be sucked out and manipulated. It’s usually worth the effort to improve a legacy system, lots of ROI opportunities.

          1. And as well all know, tech nerds are always wrong. But companies have gotten smarter, what if it’s not a tech nerd that designs the interface? A bit short sighted I think.

          2. Maybe you could edit your comment for clarity, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Anyway, my point was that nerds typically don’t value design or understand how much work goes into it. You seem to be in that camp with your comments that apps can be thrown together in a weekend, UI is easy, and it will be ‘arguing about fonts’.

            I could just as easily say that the back end is easy, it’s just data, no big deal, we’ll whip that together in a weekend. However, I work on projects that deal with both the back end and front end, and I understand how foolish it is to discount either portion of the work. Both are difficult to do well and require a good deal of thought and effort. Design isn’t how something looks, it is how it works. And the better it works, the easier to use, the simpler for the user, the more value and ROI there is.

          3. When I say “designs the interface”, it’s understood that it include what information is displayed and how it’s displayed. That’s what an interface is.

            The back end is not only where the data resides, but where the calculations get done on that data. IMO that’s the hard part, and the meat of the matter. Interfaces are the spice that makes the meat taste better. Both are important for a good “experience”, but the last thing I want is easily accessible, pretty, but useless data. Both are important, one more than the other.

          4. As I suspected, you don’t understand front to back design. If you did you’d realize how off the mark you are. I’ve been doing this kind of work for a couple of decades, there’s no way I could say one aspect is more important than the other, not when you’re building something for normal humans to use. Now, projects that are just for nerds, we can sometimes get away with a bit less work on the front end. But there are also cases when the front end is where more work is needed and the back end was the easier bit. It can be very project-specific, but to make a blanket statement that the back end is more important is quite silly. Especially when the design work actually encompasses both. What? Design on the back end? Yes.

          5. I don’t think I’ve contradicted anything you just said. Yes! There is design on the back end. Duh!

  2. When the iPad came out I envisioned, as I’m sure many people did, that all sorts of special-use applications would quickly appear for it, including many in specific industries where various un-met needs could be addressed by a bespoke app running on this compact, versatile device. Some could be very high-value apps selling for large sums into narrow vertical niches, where only hundreds or even dozens of buyers might be happy to pay sufficient sums (across a quantity of devices) to justify the costly development process.

    That’s probably happened a bit, but I don’t think there’s been nearly as much of it as as I’d imagined, and I suspect App Store policies are at least partly to blame. I see the IBM partnership as a mechanism for creating apps of this class and hope it is the beginning of a vibrant new business application culture surrounding iOS and, eventually, OS X.

    1. Premium compiler makers used to charge runtime fees back in the day. That practice has greatly subsided, in fact they later presented “no runtime fees” as a feature. Where would the software industry be if that were more widespread? What would we be saying if MS did it?

      You have to admire the audacity of charging a fee, however nominal, for a revocable runtime license, and the requirement that if your work were to be offered outside your doors, it would have to be sold through Apple, or Apple somehow gets a cut. And they have to approve it! Again, what would we be saying if MS did that. “Sorry Borland, your software duplicates functionality and is a poor experience, so you can’t run on Windows.”

      Imagine if mass printing machine manufacturers required you to sell your book in their bookstore as a condition of sale of a typesetter.

      One needs to be able to control the outcome of one’s work. Period.

  3. I agree that this relationship could change the enterprise software landscape — and anyone who uses enterprise software knows it can only be improved (from a usability perspective).

    I’m very interested in seeing if IBM leads the way with some of Apple’s other technologies too that would enhance what they’re doing with mobile apps, but it specific to the Apple ecosystem – for example, if IBM adds Apple Watch functionality to iPhone apps, or if they use HealthKit innovatively in some of the health care solutions they provide. The Apple Watch situation is a very telling one to me and can’t wait to see what happens.


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