New Deal With IBM Pushes Apple Into Enterprise

IBM and Apple late Tuesday unveiled a significant new strategic partnership under which IBM will develop applications and platforms and offer services designed to bring Apple and its iPad and iPhone solutions deep into the enterprise market.

Under the new global partnership, IBM will develop over 100 industry-specific applications to bring Apple's iOS devices to businesses as part of an enterprise mobility strategy.

IBM will also build cloud services for iOS; offer packaged services including sales, deployment and activation of the devices; and work with Apple on new service and support solutions specific to enterprise customers.

[Related: IBM Tries To Woo Mobile Developers With Watson Challenge]

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"Wow" was how Chris Pyle, president of Boca Raton, Fla.-based Champion Solutions Group, described the partnership. Champion Solutions Group is a channel partner to both vendors

"This sounds very exciting and like a good opportunity for everybody," Pyle told CRN. "We have a lot of IBM clients who are also Apple clients. If we can deliver a combined solution, we will have a lot more products and services to offer our enterprise customers."

IBM and Apple said they will collaborate on enterprise mobility in specific areas.

The first is IBM MobileFirst for iOS Solutions, a series of business-focused applications targeting specific industry opportunities. Applications from the IBM MobileFirst for iOS Solutions collaboration are expected to be available starting this Fall.

The second is the IBM MobileFirst Platform for iOS, which delivers end-to-end enterprise mobile services including analytics, workflow, cloud storage, fleet-scale device management, security and integration. These services will be available both as on-premise software solutions and via Bluemix, which is IBM’s development platform on the IBM Cloud Marketplace.

The third is AppleCare for Enterprise, a solution in which IBM will provide Apple's customer support as an on-site service for enterprise customers.

The fourth, IBM MobileFirst Supply and Management, will be IBM's platform for supplying and activating Apple iPhone and iPad devices, as well as for providing management services and leasing options for them.

While Apple likes to brag that it has a 98 percent penetration in the Fortune 500 and a 92 percent penetration into the Global 500 companies, the new IBM-Apple partnership seems to be focused on further deepening the Apple iOS footprint in customers from the consumer to the enterprise, wrote Stifel Nicolaus Equity Research analyst Aaron Rakers, in a Tuesday research report.

"While we believe it is hard to estimate the fundamental impact of this collaboration, we believe this announcement will be viewed as a positive reflection of Apple’s increased openness and the opportunity to expand its iOS footprint/ecosystem more deeply across global enterprises," Rakers wrote.

Rakers also wrote that several enterprises are creating internal company-specific iOS applications, while the Microsoft Office applications on iPad further support enterprise adoption of the mobile device.

IBM and Apple were not available to comment further on the partnership.