IBM's Duncan Talks Apps At XChange


The paradigm shift being driven by mobile in the workplace became ever more apparent Tuesday when an IBM executive revealed new details on the company's global partnership with Apple.

"Mobile devices have transformed our personal lives and soon they're going to transform our work lives, and we believe that this partnership [with Apple] will drive a very healthy combination," Tami Duncan, IBM vice president of North America channel sales, told an audience of solution providers during the XChange 2014 conference taking place in San Antonio. "Apple and IBM have partnered to drive the devices, the security systems and the integration required to bring that into the enterprise space."

The two companies said in July they would work together on more than 100 mobile enterprise apps, and both have been pretty quiet since then on what that deal will look like for solution providers or workplaces.

[Related: Apple Partners Call IBM-Apple Deal A Mixed Bag]

Duncan provided a few examples of apps during her presentation that she said have been "bandied" about.

One is aimed at workers of energy companies to help them check on the potential dangers of a site before visiting it.

The app could be culled up on a device and, based on GPS location, would warn a worker of buried power lines, ditches, nearby residential developments or other areas that require caution.

"[It's] that kind of realtime access in real ways that help people do work," Duncan said.

There's also another app idea for travelers and airlines facing canceled flights.

The potential app would let flight attendants rebook travelers while a plane is still in the air, so as to avoid having to wait until the plane lands to get into line for a new reservation.

The idea is consistent with what IBM calls the individual enterprise. That is, creating new business value, Duncan said, by speeding up the time to decision.

"It's going to be powered by analytics," she said. "It's going to put the power of the business into the palm of the employee's hands. It's going to be designed for mobile first. It's not going to be some clunky back-end application ... It's going to be designed for that end user first."

Some of the apps are expected to become available in the fall and into 2015, aimed at the retail, health care and hospitality industries among others.

"Those are some of the things that we're doing together," Duncan said. "So we're marrying the analytics and enterprise power of IBM with the elegant user interface and the client-consumer demand of Apple to create a solution for business. And we believe that this will drive a ton of downstream work into our business partner community."

Solution providers also see opportunity in the deal for their own businesses.

"It's a very powerful message out of IBM," Clive Thomas, president of Manchester, Conn.-based INTERTEQ, told CRN.

INTERTEQ has been an IBM partner for several years, but hasn't been active with the company over the last decade. That's about to change, Thomas said, as it looks to "reacquaint" itself with IBM on the company's cloud solutions.

The IBM-Apple partnership came as a surprise to some solution providers when it was announced, but the deal makes sense, Chicago-based Mesa Technology President Bernie Leung told CRN.

"Apple's such a consumer-facing company that even though they sell it only through their stores, you can't get away from it," Leung said.

"The 19-year-old or even the 23-year-old, 24-year-old, don't think about PCs anymore," he said. "Phones, [tablets], that's all they think about, so you look at it and say, 'How am I going to get that technology down to the younger generation?' That's where it's at. How [the IBM-Apple deal is] going to be executed, we don't know yet, but it makes a lot of sense."

PUBLISHED AUG. 19, 2014