Apple CEO Tim Cook, in a television interview with CNBC about Apple’s newest partnership with IBM, said, “It’s profound. It’s historic. It’s landmark.”
Announced July 15, the deal involves the pair creating more than 100 industry-specific enterprise applications; IBM getting to put the big-data know-how and enterprise-class solutions that it’s known for on some of the most-liked hardware in the world, and with an enterprise-tailored version of Apple Care included; and Apple to increase its enterprise market share and sell more iPhones and iPads while leaving to IBM the enterprise nitty-gritty it has never been keen to deal with.
Sitting alongside IBM CEO Virginia Rometty during the interview, Cook said the companies fit together “like puzzle pieces.”
What do the analysts think?
“It’s all gravy for Apple,” Ezra Gottheil, principal analyst with Technology Business Research (TBR), told eWEEK.
“This is about reinforcing and broadening the adoption of Apple hardware in the enterprise, and Apple helping IBM to get it right,” said Gottheil, adding that it’s a bit of “brilliant marketing” for IBM.
“Every major [business intelligence (BI)] app has iOS on the front end—they’ve all been doing that for years. All of a sudden, IBM gets a huge amount of press for doing pretty much the same thing. Meanwhile, Apple says, ‘If you want to tell the world we’re pretty enterprise friendly, go ahead. And if you’d like to sell our hardware, we’d be thrilled.'”
Where the deal could move past just reputation-boosting and sales, Gottheil continued, is if there’s an opportunity to integrate Siri with IBM’s backend.
“That kind of almost natural-language interface is really appropriate for large-scale enterprise apps,” Gottheil said. “If you could ask questions like, did the hospital see more infections over the last quarter, or which color sandals sold best last month. If you can ask those questions with voice, you could expend the use of BI.”
There was no mention of such a feature in the announcement, Gottheil added. “I’ve just been waiting for the shoe to drop with somebody [whether Siri or Google or Cortana] for a while.”
Pund-IT Principal Analyst Charles King, in a July 16 report, called the deal “pretty impressive, overall,” adding that it is structured to “leverage the established strengths of both in order to shore up their individual weaknesses.”
King added that the value of IBM’s deep relationships with every sort of global enterprise can’t be overstated and that the promised 100 apps “smells as if it could be related to IBM’s ‘patterns’ strategy, which has already helped spark the development of hundreds of applications and tools for industry-specific scenarios and business processes.”
Jan Dawson, chief analyst with Jackdaw Research, points out that enterprise IT departments have favored Microsoft devices over Apple devices, since the latter are harder to provision and manage.
“This deal is about turning that part of the equation around, so that IT departments can embrace Apple devices just as end users have,” Dawson told eWEEK. “It provides a level of support no other computing product has, with on-site help as well as AppleCare support from Apple over the phone. And it will give Apple a significant new direct sales force in the enterprise for selling all kinds of Apple products.”
Apple, IBM Deal Is a Winner, No Matter How Cynical the Viewpoint
Roger Kay, principal analyst with Endpoint Technologies, agreed. “Among other things, this deal will create a legit entrée for Apple with IBM’s enterprise customers,” Kay told eWEEK. “Apple can’t not want to improve relationships with this important segment, [which is] arguably one of the last that it has yet to conquer.”
Kay also noted that IBM has no “endpoints” right now and the endpoints its customers have are mostly Microsoft, which won’t be the only company impacted by Apple’s pursuit of enterprise market share.
On a call with analysts, IBM made reference to “not having to deal with multiple versions of an OS, a clear dig at Google,” said Kay. BlackBerry, he added, “is down for the count; they’re not even a factor anymore.”
Jackdaw’s Dawson, however, expects BlackBerry will still have some boosters.
“BlackBerry is still considered the gold standard for smartphone security in the enterprise, but the number of companies that require that level of security, as opposed to what’s available now with iOS and to a lesser extent Android, is shrinking all the time,” Dawson said. “But there will always be some enterprises and government departments that want that extra layer of security, and BlackBerry will continue to fill that niche, at least for a while.”
King, in his report, wrote that he expects BlackBerry’s position to remain relatively unchanged, “unless IBM can help fix Apple’s clear and obvious security issues.”
In an email to eWEEK, King echoed Dawson, calling BlackBerry the “most secure platform for mobile computing” and the chosen solution where “security takes precedence over style.”
“IBM does offer a full security framework and portfolio of services and solutions for enterprises, and I believe the Apple partnership could result in opportunities to leverage IBM’s security solutions,” King added. “However, that’s entirely my opinion, as security wasn’t mentioned or referred to in the announcement.”
The full extent of the partnership’s benefits may not be clear until the fall, when Apple introduces the devices that will run iOS 8 and its health care–related apps.
“As far as Apple’s health initiative, this makes a lot of sense,” said TBR’s Gottheil. “Apple would like to sell a lot of smartwatches, but those might not be the winning medical devices. … Apple will also be happy if there are monitors that aren’t fashionable but are attached to patients at the hospital, and they feed into your phone. … They mainly want to be the provider of the integrating solution, so ensure you’re committing to Apple.”