On July 15, IBM and Apple announced a new relationship that will ultimately mean wonders for the enterprise and consumers. It also will show that while mobile handsets are a real concern for CIOs and IT decision-makers, with the right partnership and the right team, they can actually add quite a bit of value to the marketplace.
According to IBM, the deal has four core components: software development, with both companies collaborating on the creation of more than 100 enterprise-focused apps; IBM cloud services optimization for iOS; an all-new and improved AppleCare for corporate customers; and full-package offerings from IBM from the point of sale to management.
More significant, the deal underscores just how important the enterprise has become to mobile firms and why, in the coming years, the corporate world will benefit the most from the continued success of mobile device sales.
When the iPhone launched in 2007, it was viewed purely as a consumer-focused device. In the enterprise, companies had little intention of ditching the BlackBerry, and there was no reason for Apple to worry about the corporate world since it had to get consumers onboard first.
After the iPhone and Android became popular, the enterprise started to dip its toes into the waters with those products, but still stuck with the control allowed by BlackBerry’s remote device-management services. It wasn’t until the bring-your-own-device craze—and the realization that company executives were consumers, too–that the IT side was forced to reckon with the iPhone and Android and finally accept them into the enterprise.
That rise in acceptance is staggering. According to Apple CEO Tim Cook, the iPhone and iPad now have a combined 98 percent infiltration in Fortune 500 companies and 92 percent infiltration in the Global 500.
It is perhaps those figures that made IBM realize that, to be successful in mobile, partnering with the company that’s replacing Blackberry might be the way to do it. In turn, Apple realized that, to sustain its success in the enterprise, it needs to have a show of force by partnering with a major company in that space: IBM.
Looking at what the companies are doing, it’s hard to see how there’s anything that can go wrong for the enterprise. Corporate customers will have the ability to buy into IBM programs that are tailored specifically to iOS devices they might already be using. And if they want a packaged deal to buy iPhones and apps, IBM will offer it. Apple is even going so far as to make its AppleCare service available 24/7, and IBM is providing on-site support to customers.
Consumers, too, will benefit. The point of the collaboration between IBM and Apple is to make the iPhone and iPad even more amenable to CIOs. If that’s successful—and it will be—employees will have no trouble asking their IT departments for new iPads or asking if they can use their personal devices in the office.
For the channel, for enterprise users and for consumers, there’s no downside to a partnership between IBM and Apple.
For BlackBerry, however, this spells trouble. The lingering companies sticking to BlackBerry technologies now have the best reason yet to play catch-up. And BlackBerry, by failing to partner with a trusted major company, and stubbornly believing that it can go it alone, is going to lose even more customers.
The trump card for BlackBerry’s chances in the enterprise was an Apple partnership with IBM. And it was just played.
Don Reisinger is a freelance columnist who writes for a number of sites, including eWEEK and CIO Insight.You can follow Don on Twitter.