In a potentially divisive move, Apple announced earlier this week that it is partnering with its previous archenemy, IBM, to create 100 business-specific applications for Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS. But IBM isn’t just writing software to service its corporate customers’ needs, its also going to be trying to sell iPhones and iPads to the enterprise market.
Apple and IBM in bed together might sound bizarre at first, but given that IBM’s all but abandoned its PC business to focus on data management and services, and given the popularity of Apple’s phones and tablets, the partnership isn’t as ludicrous as one might think.
For Apple loyalists with long memories, the move doubtless seems a strange one given that three decades ago, in 1984, Apple ran an ad campaign inspired by George Orwell’s dystopian novel ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ that compared Big Blue to Big Brother, painting the company as an all-powerful, soulless, conformity-demanding and, frankly, boring corporate giant.
But for business users, some of whom have had an uphill battle getting their IT departments to consent to letting them use their iPhones or iPads on corporate networks because of security and compatibility concerns, the partnership is a compelling one. At the same time, Apple knows that IBM’s the big daddy of big data – along with analytics and cloud services – and Big Blue’s client list is enviably long and illustrious. Tapping into that list is doubtless a juicy prospect for Cupertino.
The move also allows Apple – which hasn’t released a genuinely new device since the death of founder and on-again-off-again CEO, Steve Jobs – to eke out more value from its existing product range. In order to give corporate clients the same sort of Apple experience that’s won so many consumers over, IBM is also planning to offer on-site support: basically AppleCare for the enterprise market.
Has Apple lost its cool, or has it made a shrewd move that could put a dent in Microsoft’s dominance of the business market? It’s difficult to tell, but one thing’s certain, Apple fans who’ve to date been unable to use their devices for work purposes – or have had the things they can use them for limited – will be hoping the partnership bears fruit in a hurry. IBM, meanwhile, will be hoping a bit of Apple’s ineffable coolness will rub off on it. Either way, you can bet Microsoft will be paying close attention.