BYOD worries drove Apple-IBM deal — and a huge win for Apple


If there was any doubt that IT worries over the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) issue were overblown, witness Wednesday’s news that IBM will sell and support Apple iOS devices in its big accounts and work with Apple to build enterprise applications for those devices.

Now before you hyperventilate over this (too late?), let’s remember, proof will be in the pudding. Two former collaborations between IBM and Apple (and I’m going to the way-back machine here) came to nothing. Remember Kaleida or Taligent? Neither does anyone else.

But back to yesterday’s news. CIOs see the need for this to happen. iPhones and iPads remain wildly popular but Apple is not known to work well with others. It does not do on-site service and support. And IT pros are not wild about the idea of waiting in line at the local Genius Bar.

This alliance — if it works as promised — makes that pain go away for IBM accounts.

Sravish Sridhar, CEO of Kinvey, an enterprise focused mobile application development platform, said his customers want a “BYO-AD” or Bring your own Apple Device policy. “If IBM’s field reps are seeing iPad / iPhone as the preferred hardware for enterprises, then it has probably bubbled up to the top,” he noted.

Brian Katz, director of mobile innovation for a large New Jersey pharmaceutical company, said the fact that Apple is working with IBM on a hundred or so mobile applications is a good sign that those applications will appeal to enterprise users.

But he said those who think “this will bring back Sametime or Lotus Notes” have another think coming. Current Lotus Notes users will be happy but the alliance will not drive new adoption, he said. That ship has sailed.

If IBM is able to make iPhones and iPads the front ends to its big data and analytics products, it will be a huge plus, but that needs to play out right. Make no mistake, the immediate beneficiary of this collaboration is Apple. IBM has essentially become an Apple reseller and support partner.

Some IBM critics say this is just the sort of “feel good news” the company likes to announce in advance of its earnings calls which of late have not been so rosy. IBM’s second quarter earnings call is Thursday.

One big question is what Google and the Android alliance will do now. IBM’s participation will help Apple preserve its “walled garden” of applications but expand it to more enterprise-worthy apps. Android needs to do something to reassure IT that those Android devices are good corporate citizens. Many corporate accounts do not sanction Android use, citing security concerns.

As for Microsoft, which had been pushing Windows Phone to existing Windows shops, folks will wait to see what happens with the device part of the company’s former devices-and-services push which seems in doubt now. For Blackberry, which used to dominate the business mobile opportunity all these players are chasing, the Apple-IBM deal represents yet another blow.

Katz expects new partnerships will emerge to counter Apple-IBM. Perhaps the Android OEMs will sign up big service providers PriceWaterhouse, Avanade or Accenture as allies in that war.

Stay tuned.

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty and Apple CEO Tim Cook taking a casual stroll.

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty and Apple CEO Tim Cook taking a casual stroll.



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