Apple and IBM will have to work hard to prove that their partnership will work, according to Lotus F1’s IT director.
Yesterday’s announcement of the companies’ deal to develop mobile apps for the enterprise caught many by surprise, but industry figures have told ComputerworldUK that the benefits, mainly for Apple to finally secure a foothold in the enterprise, are clear.
Once bitter enemies, the rivalry of the 1980s has thawed and the aim is to marry Apple’s dominance in consumer markets since the launch of the iPhone, with IBM’s expertise in supporting large IT projects.
IT director at Lotus F1, Michael Taylor, said that while the partnership looks good on paper, the different cultures of the companies mean that there is work to be done to ensure it succeeds.
“It depends on how quickly they are able to mobilise, and how quickly they can stand up the services and start to deliver true value,” he said.
“Theoretically it is a match made in heaven, but they are two different organ isations – so it is going to be a challenge to see how they come together.”
One of the obstacles to Lotus F1 adopting iOS in the business has been a lack of enterprise-grade applications, Taylor said.
“Now with the combination of the might of IBM and its cloud delivery mechanism, its understanding of enterprise-level support and the fact that it will pre-develop these applications, certainly makes it much more of a viable platform for us going forward – and I think that is probably the same for most organisations.”
Camden Council CIO John Jackson agreed that opening the door for Apple’s mobile platform could be a major benefit to public sector customers.
“It’s really interesting. What you’ve got is obviously a tie-up between innovation and a classic enterprise-focused, corporate entity: IBM. What this does is it pulls one into the other in both directions. It could be very interesting for the enterprise market," he said.
“We’re going to see opportunities to deliver more mobile solutions into the government space on an attractive platform.”
He added: “Apple have been knocking on the door of enterprise for a while but don’t have a footprint yet, this will help with that.
Other alliances in the pipeline?
Meanwhile Forrester Research analyst Frank Gillett said that the “landmark agreement” will put pressure on other rival mobile platform providers to strike their own alliances.
“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. Look for Google and leading enterprise suppliers to seek partnerships that offer a credible alternative," he said.
KPMG head of technology, Tudor Aw, agreed that more companies will be forming partnerships in the future to keep up with the pace of technology change.
"Today's announcement by long-standing foes IBM and Apple that they are joining forces is a prime example of the "consumerisation of IT" trend that has been seen over the last few years," he said.
“It also demonstrates the need to form relationships with friends and foes alike. This "friendenemy" model is the new reality of a fast moving technology world where it is increasingly difficult to win alone and an ecosystem of partners will be the way ahead."
According to Warwick Business School Professor of Practice, Mark Skilton, IBM partnering with Apple makes more sense than with another mobile platform provider, like Google, as this could have caused conflict between the two firms’ cloud strategies.
However, he said the partnership had laid down the gauntlet to a major rival in this space, Microsoft.
“This partnership could mean trouble for Microsoft with its Azure and Nokia strategy. While attempting to play in both mobile and cloud camps, Microsoft may not be able to be master of both in consumer and enterprise markets," he said.
Unsurprisingly, not everyone was enthusiastic about yesterday's news.
Claire Vyvyan, acting executive director of one of IBM’s major competitors, Dell EMEA Client Solutions, was doubtful that Apple mobile devices would be fit for all of an enterprise’s mobility use cases.
"It's better for both of them but ultimately it's still pretty narrow in terms of the mobility market," she told ComputerworldUK.