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Apple-IBM partnership off to 'impressive' start

Gregg Keizer | Dec. 16, 2014
App and business sector choices reveal strategy of 'foundational' apps that can be customised for customers, say experts.

The Advise & Grow app from the Apple-IBM partnership.
The Advise & Grow app from the Apple-IBM partnership. Credit: IBM

Apple and IBM last week kicked off their five-month-old partnership with an "impressive" 10-pack of focused mobile business apps catering to sectors ranging from financial to law enforcement.

"The three that I've seen were pretty impressive," said Van Baker, an analyst at Gartner. "They're very complex, with some drawing from three, four or more separate data sources."

Apple and IBM, partners from 1991 through 2005 -- they had a falling out a decade ago when Apple switched its Macs to Intel processors -- rejoined forces in July to meld Apple's iPhone and iPad with IBM's big data and analytics capabilities.

At the time, the two pledged to launch some apps this year from a list that would grow to around 100. Other pieces of the partnership put IBM in charge of selling iPhones, iPads and the apps to clients; providing on-site support to customers; and optimizing its cloud-based services for iOS.

Apple has also created enterprise support plans to accommodate the new customers.

At the time, analysts saw the partnership as a win-win, but gave the edge to Apple, which has historically been an afterthought in the enterprise. "The idea is that Apple must now be a real business vendor if IBM is building for you and selling for you. Little Apple has just grown up," said Ezra Gottheil of Technology Business Research in July.

Today, Gottheil was just as impressed with the progress the two have made.

"They've gone further than I thought they were going to go by this point," Gottheil said in a telephone interview. "The apps appear to be higher-quality versions of what IBM was already building."

According to Baker, however, that wasn't necessary accurate, as the native iOS apps blended capabilities and analytics that were previously available separately.

Among the 10 apps that Apple and IBM touted on Dec. 10 were an airline in-flight customer service and engagement app, another aimed at telecommunications firms for field repair calls and a third for law enforcement incident response. Others targeted business sectors rangeg from banking and insurance to retail and government social services.

The apps put flesh on the partnership's bones, and signaled how the two companies decided which apps to design and what markets to target.

"IBM's Global Services team drove the app selection," said Baker, referring to the arm of the Armonk, N.Y. company responsible for IT consulting, systems integration and application management. "Global Services knows what people [in business] are doing, where they are in the process of moving to mobile."


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