Apple seals a groundbreaking alliance with IBM to turn its gadgets into fully business-friendly devices.

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iPhones and iPads moved an important step towards becoming staples of modern working life on Tuesday as Apple sealed a groundbreaking alliance with IBM to turn its gadgets into fully business-friendly devices.

The partnership, intended to increase the security and functionality of Apple’s mobile devices for corporate users, is a mark of how deeply “consumerisation” is reshaping corporate technology markets.

Apple and IBM were once bitter foes in the personal computing market, but have been forced to co-operate as workers bring gadgets from their personal lives to the office.

Apple long kept arms-length relations with the business world, focusing its efforts on winning over individual users, though it has boasted in recent years of how many companies now use its technology.

The deal will see IBM provide cloud services, including device management and security, for Apple’s handsets and tablets, which it will sell to large business and government customers loaded with apps specialised for particular industries.

Frank Gillett, analyst at Forrester Research, hailed the deal as a “landmark agreement”.

“Apple has been dragged into the enterprise by individuals that want the same mobile convenience on the job that they use in their personal lives, but has resisted servicing enterprises for fear of losing its famed focus on top quality user experience,” he said.

The biggest loser from the partnership is likely to be Microsoft, which will suffer a dent to its ambitions of winning business users over to its Windows 8 software on touchscreen devices, said Richard Doherty, an analyst at Envisioneering.

Apple has been dragged into the enterprise by individuals that want the same mobile convenience on the job that they use in their personal lives

“The Windows ecosystem was supposed to be the standard for businesses; it was already being fractured,” he said.

Although Apple says 98 per cent of Fortune 500 companies use its devices, the partnership is an acknowledgment that the consumer-focused company lacks the expertise and salesforce required to tackle large corporate customers. It also comes amid continuing criticism of Apple’s cloud services and will provide a fillip to the iPhone, where revenue growth has slowed in recent quarters.

“For the first time ever we’re putting IBM’s renowned big data analytics at iOS users’ fingertips, which opens up a large market opportunity for Apple,” Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, said in a joint statement. “This is a radical step for enterprise and something that only Apple and IBM can deliver.”

Ginni Rometty, IBM’s chief executive, said she was “delighted to be teaming with Apple, whose innovations have transformed our lives in ways we take for granted, but can’t imagine living without. Our alliance will bring the same kind of transformation to the way people work, industries operate and companies perform.”

Apple’s shares rose 1.4 per cent in after-market trading, having closed down 1.2 per cent for the day at $95.32. IBM, which had fallen 0.7 per cent to $188.49 during normal trading on Tuesday, rose 1.6 per cent after hours. BlackBerry, the enterprise-focused mobile device maker, was as much as 4 per cent lower after market, with Microsoft shares little changed.

“Given IBM’s market strength and coverage, this partnership gives Apple enterprise capabilities and credibility at one stroke – and gives IBM a premium advantage in the race for mobile enterprise leadership,” said Mr Gillett. “Look for Google and leading enterprise suppliers to seek partnerships that offer a credible alternative.”

Thirty years ago, Apple took direct aim at IBM’s PCs with its famous “1984” ad, styling Big Blue as an evil dictator from which the Macintosh offered salvation. In the 1990s, the two companies partnered on the PowerPC microprocessor, which ran in Macintosh computers, until Apple switched to Intel chips in 2006 (FT)

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