Apple Teams Up With IBM For Huge, Expansive Enterprise Push

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Apple has announced a strategic partnership with IBM that will see the enterprise giant transfer over 150 of their enterprise and IT apps and tools to Apple platforms natively, and will also have IBM selling Apple iPhones and iPads to its business clients all over the world. In an interview with CNBC, Apple CEO Tim Cook and IBM CEO Virginia Rometty both told the network that Apple and IBM are like “puzzle pieces” that fit perfectly together.

“We knew that we needed to have a partner that deeply understood each of the verticals,” Cook told CNBC. “That had scale, that had a lot of dirt under their fingernails so to speak from really understanding each of these verticals and we found a kindred spirit in IBM.”

Apple touts the access the partnership gives them to IBM’s big data and analytics capabilities, and talks about how the apps that it produces with IBM will be developed “from the ground up for iPhone and iPad.” These apps will supplement new cloud services aimed at iOS specifically, including security and analytics solutions, and device management tools for large-scale MDM deployments.

The so-called IBM MobileFirst for iOS solutions will see apps created that are designed to give specific industries solutions tailored to their unique problems – Cook and Rometty described in speaking to CNBC apps tailored to pilots, for example. To do this, Apple cites the expertise resident in over 100,000 IBM industry and domain consultants as a valuable resource in making apps tailored to different needs. This isn’t about owning the general office; it’s about turning Apple’s software and devices into the core functional software in every vertical possible.

Apple has made headway on its own in the enterprise, thanks in large part to the iPad, the iPhone and the trend of bring-your-own-devices that we’ve seen arise over the last few years in workforces around the world. And while it has made efforts to highlight the advantages of its platform for business users, this is a very different thing and involves a huge, targeted effort to sell through to enterprise users of all stripes. BlackBerry, in other words, has every reason in the world to be terrified.

Industries Apple and IBM look to be tackling first include retail, healthcare, banking, travel, transportation, telecommunications and insurance (among others) per the official press release, with a planned rollout starting this fall and continuing in earnest through 2015. The solution is designed to be end-to-end, covering everything from cloud storage to security and MDM, as well as private app stores and deployments. In many ways, this sounds like what Google is trying to do with Play for Enterprise, but backed by the expertise of a partner that already has extensive expertise identifying and addressing the needs of enterprise customers.

AppleCare for Enterprise is also part of the arrangement, and will provide IT customers with 24-hour, all-day support via phone and online, while IBM’s workforce will offer on-site support as well. iPhones and iPads will be sold by IBM to enterprise buyers, too, and those arrangements will include available leasing options. Apple currently offers business and volume sales, but it sounds like under IBM these will be more exhaustive and cover a wider range.

_MG_8023_v1_5x7x300_JA_fApple incorporated a lot of new features for enterprise and education with changes introduced back in February, and promises additional improvements in iOS 8 via new means of informing users about device configuration, management or restrictions, and new security features and tools.

As industry analyst TIm Bajarin points out, this is a blow to both Google and Microsoft in terms of the enterprise aspirations of both of their mobile platforms – Apple already managed to disrupt enterprise IT with its devices, and working together with IBM essentially guarantees continued growth in this key market, regardless of any other potential outcomes.

Google also announced a key new partnership this year regarding its enterprise mobility efforts – at its I/O developer conference last month it detailed how it would be bringing Knox to all of Android thanks to the help of Samsung, to be recast as ‘Android for Work,’ offering a way to partition personal and work data on Android smartphones and tablets in much the same way they’re kept separate on BlackBerry 10 devices using ‘BlackBerry Balance.’ Google Play will be able to offer business-specific approved apps, which can be sold in bulk for enterprise-wide fleet purchasing, Google revealed.

At first glance, Apple’s partnership looks to be a more far-reaching overture to enterprise than that Google is making with Android L, but we’ll have to wait and watch how both arrangements shake out when they start to hit the market proper this coming fall.