Apple-IBM deal aims to shake up enterprise mobility

Richard Absalom/Ovum
22 Jul 2014

On July 15 2014, IBM and Apple announced a strategic partnership to target the enterprise mobility market. It gives Apple an exclusive worldwide partner to help push its iOS 8 devices further into the enterprise, and extends the capabilities of IBM’s MobileFirst EMM (enterprise mobility management) offering.

This is an extensive partnership, demonstrating a strengthened approach to enterprise mobility on both sides, especially from Apple as it gains a strong new sales channel into the enterprise. Apple’s enterprise strategy has so far largely been about leveraging its share in the consumer market, with employees bringing their own devices to work and acting as brand advocates for Apple within their business – and working with third-party EMM vendors to enable enterprise IT to manage such usage of personal devices.

The distribution and procurement aspect of the partnership aims to make it easier for organizations to deploy iOS devices as part of a corporate-owned mobile strategy (although there is no word on whether the deal will involve Apple providing discounts on enterprise-wide device procurement).

IBM is also attempting to drive usage of employee-facing apps: it is releasing over 100 new vertical-specific solutions for iOS 8, as well as working to make life easier for the developer community on its Bluemix application with access to 4,000 APIs for iOS 8, and analytics to leverage back-end data. The deal also enhances the capabilities of IBM’s MaaS360 EMM platform around iOS, making IBM a more attractive proposition for both developers and those needing to manage iOS apps and devices – the enterprise-level security that the IBM apps carry will make iOS more acceptable for business.

This is undoubtedly a boost for IBM, which looks like it has all the main components required for a comprehensive mobility offering, but has some catching up to do in terms of executing on its MobileFirst vision. However, the deal by no means shuts down the EMM market around iOS. The same Apple APIs will be made available to all other vendors looking to build, manage, and deploy enterprise apps and devices.

With a seemingly strengthened focus on the enterprise, Apple will work with every EMM vendor out there to make sure that iOS maintains its position as the dominant mobile OS in the enterprise. Among those vendors, competition to reach a critical mass of enterprise customers and become the dominant player in the fast-growing EMM space will continue to be fierce. Putting a similar deal in place with Apple’s primary competitor in mobile – Google – should be next in mind for IBM.

Richard Absalom is a senior analyst with the Ovum Consumer IT & Integrated Media practice, particularly focusing on mobile consumerization

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