IBM + Apple = Enterprise Mobile Upgrade

Scott Francis
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It will come as no surprise to readers of this blog that I like to write about Apple, and about IBM, and IBM BPM.

So when I read today the surprise news that IBM and Apple are partnering on a new enterprise initiative, I knew what I was blogging about tonight!  IBM’s version of the press release includes pictures here.  IBM has aslo posted a well-designed site to tout their mobile strengths and the Apple-IBM partnership.

It’s good to see IBM embracing the reality of enterprise mobile solutions:

“iPhone and iPad are the best mobile devices in the world and have transformed the way people work with over 98 percent of the Fortune 500 and over 92 percent of the Global 500 using iOS devices in their business today,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO.

As someone who partners with IBM, I have to say this is a dramatic change for IBM.  I’m not the only one who thought so:

This dramatic turnaround–Apple moving to a device leadership position and IBM moving to a service leadership position–created the conditions for today’s announcement of a strategic partnership–an event which is astounding to those who witnessed the 1980s and 1990s. Were it not for the tenacious independence of Apple and the business model agility of IBM, neither company would be around today to leverage one another.

Let me explain the context from my perspective as a BPM partner.

When IBM first acquired Lombardi in 2010, IBM was very concerned about being “cross-platform” in mobile.  Lombardi’s nascent iOS-only apps were largely killed off, because they had no hope of working on BlackBerry or Windows Phone or Android.  The focus on cross-platform led to an over-dependence on PhoneGap – and when that was acquired by Adobe, IBM shifted focus to Worklight, which attempted to play Switzerland not only to the phone platforms, but also to the cross-platform and platform-specific development environments!

IBM’s mobile UIs have suffered for the cross-platform strategy tax.  Today, your best bet for a mobile interface for IBM BPM is right here at BP3 (Luckily, our solution is pretty awesome).  As recently as this spring, IBMers would have told me cross-platform HTML5 was much more important to them than a native iOS app.

IBM user experience has suffered because it is harder to build great cross-platform UIs than it is to build great single platform UIs (even using HTML5 this is true).  Now IBM has the opportunity to focus on iOS-specific enterprise applications – and an opportunity to rethink the design ethos.  This isn’t a BPM-specific opportunity. In fact, I would guess that BPM isn’t first on their list of opportunities to tackle.  The press release is much more focused on domain-specific applications rather than process-centric.

Focusing on iOS will simplify IBM’s efforts to build solutions and deploy solutions.  One target OS, only a few target device sizes and capabilities.  The value of standardizing on a great platform can’t be underestimated.  Having a distribution deal to sell iPhones and iPads will help IBM to put a holistic bid together that includes all the devices required to make the enterprise applications work.

To sum up:

  • IBM brings its enterprise strengths – an army of consultants, security and endpoint management expertise, and enterprise applications and platforms, and a focus on the enterprise and enterprise services.
  • Apple brings its mobile strengths – the best operating system and devices in mobile, and fantastic infrastructure to support apps, and a focus on the user experience and devices.

Despite Apple’s wide adoption in enterprise, Apple was lacking a strategic partnership for enterprise such as this one.  They’ve turned a devout “neutral” party into an Apple partisan in the enterprise.  That is going to make a difference.  IBM was lacking a strategic focus for mobile enterprise. By eliminating some of the noise (cross-platform), IBM can acquire a purpose and direction and point of view about mobile.

I like this quote from Tim Cook:

“In ’84, we were competitors. In 2014, I don’t think you can find two more complementary companies,” said Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook in the joint interview. “This is a really landmark deal.”

I also like this quote:

“We’re good at building a simple experience and in building devices,” Cook said. “The kind of deep industry expertise you would need to really transform the enterprise isn’t in our DNA. But it is in IBM’s.”

Effectively, Om Malik and other observers see this as Apple acquiring an enterprise channel, in much the same way that a Target would be a retail channel.  I see more iPad sales in Apple’s future.

I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out for our part of the ecosystem, BPM – I think our strategy plays nicely into this context of an IBM-Apple partnership with our focus on mobile BPM and user experience.  I like our chances.   More to come next week…

 

 

 

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