Why the Apple/IBM partnership should worry traditional PC vendors

on December 19, 2014

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.