Sources: Apple Is Buying More IBM Products And Drinking The IBM Enterprise Kool-Aid

Apple is buying and deploying an increasing amount of IBM technology for internal use, in a sign of how the vendors' mobile enterprise partnership is spreading to new areas, sources familiar with the matter told CRN this week.

Apple is using IBM software and hardware in its retail platform and in its corporate data centers, according to the sources.

Apple CEO Tim Cook and COO Jeff Williams are particularly interested in IBM's Watson cognitive computing technology, and have held high-level discussions with IBM about using its data analytics in Apple's long-rumored electric car project, as well as in health care and manufacturing offerings, the sources said.

IBM last April said it would support Apple's ResearchKit, an open-source framework for medical researchers and developers, on its Watson Health Cloud, one of several efforts underway to commercialize the Watson technology in various industry segments.

Apple is bringing in revenue from the partnership as well. IBM has become one of Apple's largest resellers of MacBooks, iPads and iPhones, as well as one of its biggest corporate customers. IBM plans eventually to provide some 200,000 iOS devices to its employees, The Wall Street Journal reported last August. IBM has also launched a cloud service that helps other organizations securely integrate Macs with their enterprise systems and applications.

So where does the Apple-IBM partnership go from here? CRN's sources see an opportunity for IBM to help Apple get better at scaling cloud storage, potentially helping it reduce its reliance on Amazon Web Services, Microsoft and, most recently, Google.

If Apple continues to buy more IBM products and services, the vendors may consider inking an enterprise licensing agreement at some point, one source suggested to CRN. In any event, IBM is well positioned as Apple's go-to provider of enterprise technology, the source said.

"IBM certainly has a leg up as a result of the partnership and the regular high-level discussions [with Apple executives]," said the source.

When asked about the future direction of the Apple partnership, the IBM spokeswoman suggested it has plenty of room for expansion.

"Apple and IBM continue to evolve the partnership to take full advantage of innovations both companies are delivering," the spokeswoman said in an email. "We've just scratched the surface of what the Apple-IBM partnership can deliver."

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