Apple-IBM deal shakes up workplace tech

Apple and IBM

At Apple Inc’s headquarters in Cupertino, California on Tuesday, July 15, 2014, Apple CEO Tim Cook and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty announced a global strategic partnership to redefine the way work gets done by transforming the way businesses and employees use mobile technology through a new class of business apps that bring IBM’s big data and analytics capabilities to iPhone and iPad.

Apple and IBM were once rivals but the two companies announced a plan Wednesday to work together. They will collaborate on software and cloud services, and IBM will distribute Apple products to some of its biggest customers – big business, universities, and the government.

This deal is a way for Apple,  maker of the iPhone and the iPad, to get more of those mobile devices into the workplace – historically BlackBerry’s and Microsoft’s turf. According to Norman Young, an analyst with Morningstar, this deal may have caught them by surprise.

“They didn’t really think that Apple would really compete in this space, because they never really had,” he says.

For a long time, Apple’s focus has been on consumers, but according to Stacy Crook of the market research company IDC, Apple has been making inroads. The workplace has seen more of what she calls “B.Y.O.D.”

“We just use the same device for our business use and our personal use these days,” she says.

IT guys and gals have tolerated that – sometimes grudgingly. These days, when we bring our own devices, odds are they are not BlackBerrys. 

“You know, from a BlackBerry’s perspective, this is pretty significant,” says tech analyst Sharon Cross, of Cross Research. She says BlackBerry made its name selling its devices to big business, and the security of its network was a huge selling point. With this new partnership, Apple and IBM say they will give corporate clients the assurance their apps and devices will be just as secure.

So what about Microsoft?

“This agreement is good for Apple, it’s good for IBM, it’s bad for BlackBerry, and it’s really not that impactful to Microsoft,” Cross says, noting companies will still buy PCs running Windows.

IBM could have partnered with Google. After all, Android phones remain popular. But according to Roger Kay, the head of Endpoint Technologies Associates, Apple’s trademark simplicity may have given it an edge.

“IT managers don’t have to deal with a hugely complex environment,” he says. “They know kind of what they’re getting.”

There are hundreds of different types of phones and tablets that run the Android operating system. With Apple, there’s just a handful.

 

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.

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