Partners Deflated By Limited Channel Opportunities In Apple-IBM Deal

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A blockbuster partnership between Apple and IBM to drive iPads, iPhones and Big Blue iOS apps deep into the heart of enterprise will leave many partners shut out from potentially lucrative new channel opportunities, partners say.

Solution providers initially excited about the partnership, which will see IBM build over 100 industry-specific apps for iOS gear and resell Apple iPhones and iPads, have quickly become disillusioned as IBM has confirmed more details on how channel partners can -- and can't -- participate.

While IBM is touting the deal as a growth opportunity for solution providers who want to build enterprise apps for Apple devices on its MobileFirst Platform for iOS, solution providers will not be allowed to resell any of the IBM-developed apps or the bundles that combine IBM mobile device management services and Apple maintenance services with the devices themselves.

[Related: 10 Keys To The Apple-IBM Partnership]

Some partners say IBM is throwing them the scraps, keeping the most lucrative opportunities for themselves, such as combining the sale of IBM consulting services with the sale of IBM-built apps and backend software, service and support.

"It sounds like IBM is about to make the same mistake Microsoft made with Surface. It's telling partners 'hands off' a potentially lucrative new business opportunity for partners," said Bob Venero, the CEO of Future Tech, a Holbrook, N.Y.-based IBM and Apple partner. "It's unfair, unjustified and unwarranted."

Through the partnership, Apple gains a much stronger path into the lucrative enterprise space. For IBM, it allows it to tightly integrate its cloud capabilities, device management, security, and analytics into iOS devices optimized for IBM services.

Under the terms of the Apple-IBM agreement, IBM will directly sell its version of AppleCare for Enterprise (with on-site service delivered by IBM) and a new mobile device management service called MobileFirst Supply and Management in tandem with the IBM MobileFirst Platform for iOS.

Even though IBM direct sales will exclusively sell the 100 IBM-built apps, one IBM executive says it's counting on partners to develop their own apps based on its new MobileFirst Platform for iOS.

"We see this as a huge new growth opportunity for IBM and partners," said Phillip Buckellew, vice president enterprise mobile, of IBM Software Group. "The channel can take advantage of the MobileFirst Platform for iOS to build and deploy solutions that tie iOS devices with IBM's backend," Buckellew said.

For some partners, the application development opportunity represents too small a piece of the pie.

NEXT: Partner Voices Account Co-Management Concerns

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