IBM/Apple deal targets Microsoft, hurts BlackBerry

Apple wins most in pact to create 100 exclusive iOS apps for vertical markets and harness IBM enterprise channels

By Caroline Gabriel

Just as some confidence was returning in BlackBerry and the turnaround plans of its CEO John Chen, it has suffered another blow as IBM and Apple team up in its enterprise heartland. The duo, which will create exclusive iOS applications and work together to target vertical markets, will not really be aiming fire at the ailing Canadian company though - their real target will be Microsoft, while Apple will be keen to keep Google's Android and web services firmly in their place too.

The companies hailed their agreement, named 'IBM MobileFirst for iOS', as a "landmark" and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty praised Apple as "the gold standard for consumers", apparently forgetting similar enterprise-focused alliances it has made in the past with companies like Samsung and, of course, Microsoft. If it puts greater resource into this one than some past efforts, Apple will certainly be able to build on its already impressive growth in the enterprise, acquiring a new salesforce, a hugely trusted brand in areas like security, and 100 new iOS business applications.

These 100 apps are the heart of the deal. They will be created jointly by IBM and Apple, exclusive to iOS and tailored to individual vertical markets such as retail, healthcare, banking, transportation, telecoms and insurance. This will give Apple, already a strong player in the enterprise, the ability to target specific segments in a way its current frameworks do not allow.

In addition, IBM's cloud services such as device management, security and analytics will be optimized for iOS. This is where BlackBerry, as well as other mobile management platforms, will feel the pinch - and the move may also prevent Apple being tempted to bring its own expanding artificial intelligence platforms into the enterprise space, rather than keeping them for consumers and Siri. IBM's analytics engines, including the famous Watson machine learning platform, are a critical aspect of its services and mobile-first offering. So it is a considerable coup that Apple has agreed to standardize on its new friend's analytics and big data apps, effectively cutting a hefty market off for other players in this booming area.

Apple has also agreed to tailor AppleCare for enterprise deployments with support onsite via IBM; and use IBM's Fiberlink MaaS360 for mobile device management; while IBM will package device activation, supply and management for the iOS partnership; sell vertical-focused iDevices bundled with its apps; and lend the support of its 100,000-strong consultancy group and its financing arm to push Apple solutions.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said: "We're putting IBM's renowned big data analytics at iOS users' fingertips, which opens up a large market opportunity for Apple. This is a radical step for enterprise and something that only Apple and IBM can deliver."

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