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The New IBM-Apple Partnership

Who would have thought ten years ago that IBM and Apple would become partners?

We live in interesting times for sure. Who would have thought ten years ago that IBM and Apple would become partners? Here is the announcement as reported in eWeek:

Apple and IBM surprised many on July 15, announcing a global partnership that will see the companies attempt to “transform enterprise mobility.” The announcement, punctuated with comments from Apple CEO Tim Cook and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, served notice of the companies’ intentions to make Apple smartphones, tablets and mobile services pre-eminent in the enterprise, replacing the BlackBerry devices and security services that long held the dominant position in that market. The partnership only confirms what Apple has been doing for years with its smartphones, tablets and even its notebook and desktop PCs, moving deeper into enterprises. The company has been touting its success in the corporate world, saying that many of the top companies in the world are now using its iPhones and iPads. In the IBM announcement, Apple’s Cook said that the company’s iPhones and iPads are now running in more than 98 percent of the Fortune 500 and 92 percent of the Global 500. Both Apple and IBM expect those figures to grow with this new partnership.

What is in it for Apple? Apple has been trying for years to shed the idea that its products only appeal to consumers. The company has brought proprietary app development and remote device management to iOS devices and continues to offer stats on enterprise integration. With the IBM deal, however, Apple is making something abundantly clear: It cares deeply about the corporate world and it wants to do all it can to be a success in that market.

What is in it for IBM? For IBM, the Apple partnership is a software play. IBM said in its own press release that it plans to make applications that are designed for enterprise customers, but come with a wide array of features that simply aren’t available right now in the mobile market. That could provide IBM (and Apple) with a leg up in the enterprise. While IBM could have extended the partnership to OS X and perhaps made Apple a bit happier as it tries getting that platform into the enterprise, Big Blue said in its statement that the agreement applies only to iOS. That means that iPhones and iPads will play a central role in this agreement, and Macs and iPods running iOS will be left out.

Developing mobile Apps together? Although IBM plans to chart the course for software in this partnership, the companies are actually going to come together on development. IBM said that both Apple and its own developers will collaborate to leverage iOS as much as possible and get every last bit out of the technology built into iPhones and iPads. That’s a core component in this: IBM has lofty goals, and it can only be successful if it can fully harness the power of iOS and Apple hardware.

Leveraging Big Data: Big data and analytics will be a core focus of this effort, IBM said. The apps—over 100, in total—will look at how to get companies to insert their massive amounts of data into iOS devices, analyze it and make actionable decisions. Mobile devices have traditionally been viewed as too underpowered to handle big data. IBM sees it differently.

Playing in the IBM Cloud: Although IBM is building apps for on-premise use, the company said that it will also offer all of the solutions it’s developing on its Bluemix development platform. Customers will need to head over to the IBM Cloud Marketplace and then download the apps they desire. IBM said it will also try to find other ways to leverage the cloud.

IBM, a reseller of iPhone & iPad? IBM is essentially becoming another outlet for Apple to sell its iPhones and iPads. The companies have agreed to have IBM sell iPhones and iPads to enterprise customers that come with desired applications already on them. That should make it easier for corporate customers to join the mobile fray and for Apple to improve its already-strong enterprise integration.

There you go folks! This new partnership appears like a big winner for Apple as it expands its already-dominant market for iPhone/iPad into the enterprise. IBM is betting on the mobile apps on iOS to make its cloud and big data initiatives more appealing.

Gone are the days in 1984 when Apple ran that advertisement during the introduction of the Mac, portraying IBM as the big bad evil force. With IBM’s PC business sold to Lenovo few years back, IBM is into software and services business (includes cloud infrastructure service).

Yes, these are interesting times!

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More Stories By Jnan Dash

Jnan Dash is Senior Advisor at EZShield Inc., Advisor at ScaleDB and Board Member at Compassites Software Solutions. He has lived in Silicon Valley since 1979. Formerly he was the Chief Strategy Officer (Consulting) at Curl Inc., before which he spent ten years at Oracle Corporation and was the Group Vice President, Systems Architecture and Technology till 2002. He was responsible for setting Oracle's core database and application server product directions and interacted with customers worldwide in translating future needs to product plans. Before that he spent 16 years at IBM. He blogs at http://jnandash.ulitzer.com.