July 19, 2014
Every now and then, the universe likes to throw a curve ball, just to see if you’re actually paying attention. Today’s surprise announcement of a wide-ranging Apple-IBM alliance is likely to put a frown on the faces of many tech execs. As of today, IBM and Apple have signed a broad agreement to put iPads and iPhones in the hands of many of IBMs clients and customers, while Apple has pledged support for the enterprise firm’s software tools and products.
IBM is promising a whole suite of business intelligence applications, cloud services, security and analytics, and device management tools, all to be written for iOS from the ground up and with enterprise customers firmly in mind. Apple, in turn, will offer AppleCare to enterprise customers, including what looks like an enterprise-style agreement to provide on-site repair and replacement services.
This deal, assuming both sides deliver on their respective software solutions, is potentially huge. It expands IBM’s business into touchscreens and tablets, it gives businesses a guaranteed and respected solution for software and hardware, and it gives Apple enormous amounts of enterprise street cred.
Fighting the bottom-up BYOD trend
For years, pundits have predicted that the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend would wreck Blackberry’s market domination (it did) and then allow Android to seize market share from iOS (evidence is mixed). Certainly manufacturers like Samsung have endeavored to beef up their own security ratings and status to steal marketshare from the lucrative business segment.
This announcement is a clear threat to the few markets where Blackberry still plays, Microsoft’s corporate cash cows, and the BYOD Android trend that Samsung and other vendors have been pushing. Unfortunately, identifying it as a threat is all we can do for now — we need to see more details before we can say more. If Apple and IBM cast their nets narrowly and mostly appeal to IBM’s existing high-end customers, then the impact might not be substantial.
If, on the other hand, the two companies use this as an excuse to try and reach new customer bases, Android, Blackberry, and Windows could all be in a world of hurt. It’s the latest in a series of moves IBM has made to expand its customer base outwards, from aligning itself with Nvidia on HPC computing initiatives to opening up the Power8 architecture.
Of all these moves, however, this IBM-Apple alliance seems the most likely to change the nature of the enterprise computing game — and to rock pretty much everyone back on their heels in the process.