The Apple/IBM partnership is nothing but good news for the enterprise

Apple and IBM have announced a huge partnership that allows each company to focus on what they do best. Here's what it could mean for the enterprise.

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty with Apple CEO Tim Cook
Image: Apple/Paul Sakuma

Apple has never been particularly good at dealing with the enterprise. Sometimes, it seems like the iPhone and iPad have succeeded there in spite of Apple, not because of it. Thankfully, Tim Cook has (unthinkably, to some longtime Apple fans) formed a new "global partnership" with IBM that should allow both companies to focus on their strengths.

In its press release today, Apple said that 98% of Fortune 500 companies and 92% of Global 500 firms use iOS devices. This is despite Apple's sometimes astounding inability to serve up solutions that enterprise IT departments need.

Until very recently, Apple required that IT departments unbox and physically plug in iPhones and iPads to set them up, even when deploying tens of thousands of units. It took more than 5 years for Apple to fully roll out Volume Purchase Programs (VPP) for apps, and Apple's customer service and support programs are designed for consumers and small businesses, not for large corporations.

Hopefully, this new IBM partnership will change all that. IBM sees the writing on the wall, that many corporations want to roll out custom apps and platforms for their employees, but without all the pain that goes with developing it from top-to-bottom. Companies don't want the labor pains, they just want the baby. That's where IBM comes in.

IBM will sell iPhones and iPads through its enormous enterprise supply chain, and the two companies will jointly develop new native apps and enterprise solutions for companies, plus IBM cloud services covering device management, security, analytics, and more.

Neither company has released many details, instead promising executive briefings with more information beginning this fall.

IBM promises significant support for its enterprise cloud offerings, end-to-end procurement and lifecycle management for iOS devices, and a new AppleCare for enterprise support offering that will see Apple providing 24/7 assistance for both IT departments and end users, with on-site service provided by iBM.

The press release is full of all the right buzzwords, but the real show will begin this fall when IBM and Apple begin sharing the details. However, for companies that have significant iOS infrastructure, especially if they currently work with IBM on other IT projects, the partnership is likely nothing but good news.

It will allow Apple to focus on building great hardware and operating systems, while letting IBM take care of the enterprise sales and support side of the equation. The deal "takes the best of Apple and the best of IBM and puts those together," said Apple CEO Tim Cook in an interview with CNBC. "There's no overlap, there's no competition, but they're totally complementary."

Apple promises "a new class of apps that connects users to big data and analytics right on their iOS devices with more ease and efficiency than ever before."

It's easy to put words in a press release, but it's quite another to execute on them. But these companies sure know how to execute.

Interested parties can sign up for executive briefings beginning in October on IBM's MobileFirst website.

Do you think the Apple and IBM partnership will let both companies focus on what they're best at, or is it too big for even these giants to manage? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.