Can IBM Be a Major Player in the Apple Enterprise Ecosystem?

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As I mentioned last week, in my post, “Enterprise Customers Forged the Apple/IBM Ecosystem,” what tickled me about the exclusive worldwide partnership announced by IBM and Apple on 7/15/14 was that it was a great example of IBM’s running around in front of the customer parade. Enterprise customers—led by their CEOs, sales execs, and top-earning rainmakers—had already voted with their proverbial feet and adopted Apple iPads and iPhones as their devices of choice for getting work done on the go. That meant that their IT organizations had to adapt by accommodating Apple devices and apps, and they did. Soon, an entire ecosystem of third-party tools and services sprang up to help enterprise IT professionals manage iDevices, support them, develop apps for them, and deliver back-end enterprise data and applications securely to employees. Apple helped primarily by getting out of the way. That evolution began four years ago, shortly after the introduction of the iPad. Apple supported these activities with its iOS Developer Enterprise Program, which allowed corporations to develop apps for their own institutional use and not have to publish them in the Apple App Store.

Apple + IBMNow, IBM has made a dramatic entrance into this ecosystem—with four offerings specifically targeted for their many enterprise accounts: IBM MobileFirst for iOS, IBM MobileFirst Platforms for iOS, AppleCare for Enterprise, and MobileFirst supply and management. The first two offerings are targeted for application developers and are iOS-specific instantiations of IBM’s MobileFirst offerings, which we described in IBM’s MobileFirst “Customer Cloud” Strategy, in late March. Essentially, this is a cloud-based development platform that is designed to help enterprise app developers develop, deploy, secure, and integrate corporate apps into their (IBM and other ERP) back-end systems and services. IBM has developed 100+ starter kit apps for over 10 vertical industries.

The gotcha that we see for IBM’s MobileFirst development platform is that it may not catch on among mobile app developers—even those who focus on enterprise apps. Most of those developers have already selected their development environments, and there’s not a lot of incentive for them to switch.

On the other hand, the third offering, Enterprise AppleCare—which provides second level tech support by IBM to your corporate IT support staff—will probably be attractive to CIOs and corporate IT support staff. And MobileFirst supply and management, the fourth offering, will help CFOs and CIOs manage their spending, their asset control, and their globally distributed deployment and activation of all of these iDevices.

In trying to analyze what’s in it for the six types of customers who are at the center of the Apple Enterprise Mobility Customer Ecosystem, I relied heavily on the ruminations of “Patty’s Pioneers,” a group of seasoned IT executives, developers, architects, and entrepreneurs, who have been “hanging out” together—both face-to-face and online—providing their own unique spin on tech-related events since the late 90s. My short take doesn’t do justice to the rich online discussion we’ve had in the last week on this topic. But my analysis is at least grounded in real-world customer feedback. So, a heartfelt thanks to Patty’s Pioneers, once again, for helping me think through a complex issue, and my apologies to those of you whose thoughts I didn’t include!

Apple/IBM Enterprise MobileFirst Partnership
Will Enterprise IT Execs & Mobile App Developers Embrace IBM’s MobileFirst iOS Offerings?
By Patricia B. Seybold, CEO, The Patricia Seybold Group, July 24, 2014

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