Apple, IBM Partnership Nails Down iOS Device Support in Enterprises

NEWS ANALYSIS: The IBM-Apple partnership is hardly a surprise. The deal simply provides improved product support for the iOS devices that are ubiquitous in enterprises.  

For all of those people out there who seem shocked by their joint announcement that Apple and IBM would team up to bring IBM's enterprise and big data applications to the iOS platform, they probably haven't been paying attention to IBM lately.

The only thing that's really new in the announcement is that it formalizes activities that have been going on for some time. Apple products, especially the iPad and the iPhone, have penetrated deeply into large enterprises already and IBM provides sales and support services for nearly every form of IT.

But that's not to suggest that the agreement is insignificant either, because it's not. IBM will be selling and leasing Apple products, just as it's been selling and leasing everything from BlackBerry devices to Windows computers for years. This agreement allows IBM to provide products that its customers already want, and it gives IBM a means to provide lifecycle sales, support and management for Apple products.

Apple, for its part, gets the endorsement of IBM, which is critical to widespread acceptance in large enterprises. "It's an obvious need by both," said Jack Gold, president and principal analyst for J. Gold Associates. Gold noted that there's very little cost or risk for either company.

"What Apple gets is an endorsement from IBM into very large accounts," Gold said. "IBM is getting something from Apple especially on developing apps, and Apple is getting support and endorsements and lifecycle management. Both get a win out of this."

Gold said that IBM has done this many times before. "IBM has a whole leasing organization and they do it for everything," Gold said. "They once had a Palm device."

But just because this isn't IBM's first rodeo does it mean that the two companies won't be breaking new ground with this partnership. For example, IBM will be setting up Apple Care for Enterprises, providing Apple's phone support coupled with IBM's on-site service and support, something that hasn't really been available to Apple iOS device customers before.

IBM will also be developing a wide array of iOS apps. IBM will deliver the MobileFirst platform for iOS, which will provide enterprise cloud services for Apple devices. The company will also deliver service packages that allow customers to buy Apple iOS devices along with IBM software and services all at once.

But it's worth knowing that something like this was bound to happen as Apple moved deeper into the enterprise. Unlike his predecessor, Apple CEO Tim Cook has always been aware of Apple's potential in the enterprise and he's always cared deeply about how businesses, especially large enterprises, use Apple products.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...