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July 18, 2014

Apple estimates that 98 percent of companies have employees who use their personal iOS devices at work. Even so, Apple has faced a long, uphill battle to gain traction when it comes to enterprise computing. That may be about to change with the announcement of a deal earlier this week between Apple and IBM that promises the creation of "a new class of business apps — bringing IBM's big data and analytics capabilities to iPhone and iPad."

The two companies plan to create more than 100 mobile apps for a wide variety of industries including retail. The first of those apps will launch in the fall when Apple releases iOS 8.

As to where the companies might be headed with these new apps remains unclear, but a piece on the InformationWeek site suggests the answer may be on the IBM Cloud Marketplace. The article points to IBM Concert and IBM Project Catalyst as apps, which seem particularly relevant to Apple/IBM partnership. Concert is budgeting, planning and forecasting app used by workers in finance, sales, marketing. Catalyst enables workers to upload and crunch data. According to the article, Concert "automatically finds correlations and trends, suggesting data visualizations as well as descriptions, in English, of what stands out in the data."

As part of the deal, IBM will sell iPhones and iPads to its business customers and also provide on-site AppleCare support for Apple devices. Apple will provide 24/7 phone support for enterprise users.

"We are delighted to be teaming with Apple, whose innovations have transformed our lives in ways we take for granted, but can't imagine living without," said Ginni Rometty, IBM chairman, president and CEO, in a statement. "Our alliance will bring the same kind of transformation to the way people work, industries operate and companies perform."


Discussion Questions:

Where do you think the Apple/IBM working relationship will face its greatest challenges? Ultimately, will Apple and IBM working together create something greater than their individual wholes?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

How likely is the Apple and IBM working relationship to shake up enterprise computing?


The future is in the "clouds."

IBM's strength is and has always been enterprise. To be successful with IBM Cloud they have to get more people, especially employees, connected to cloud services. Since many employees' device of choice away from the office is Apple, this appears to be a significant win for IBM.

Apple continues to need consumers to adopt their devices, not just for entertainment but all things they do. It's not just about consumers owning an iPad, it's all about hours of use and becoming the preferred portal. Enabling Microsoft Office on iPads was another strategic move to make Apple devices the "consumer-preferred portal" for access to work activities.

The success of these strategic alliances will ultimately depend upon how good the apps really are, and whether they satisfy real user needs. Having access means nothing if the consumer can't accomplish what they need to get done.

Just as retail has become omni-channel, work is also becoming an "anytime everywhere proposition"—there needs to be great apps for that.

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Chris Petersen, PhD, President, Integrated Marketing Solutions

The biggest challenge is that Microsoft is and has been entrenched as the de facto platform for years. Most retail systems in existence are built to run on Windows and Microsoft under Nadella isn't sitting on its laurels. There is going to be a big battle across all industries as computing continues its transformations: mobile devices, cloud architecture, SaaS, and soon NUI technologies and cognitive systems as Microsoft takes on all comers.

Execution is going to be the key, largely on the sales side. Apple/IBM are going to have to sell IT departments on changing course and even trashing existing systems to take hold of the market they seek. I imagine they will offer solutions that play nicely with existing infrastructure, but IT is typically a stubborn lumbering department with deep loyalties to its vendors, so change is going to be an uphill challenge including many internal IT vs. other department battles.

Hopefully though, in five to ten years retail will be better for it.

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Ken Lonyai, Digital Innovation Strategist, co-founder, ScreenPlay InterActive

While many workers may use their iPhones and iPads at work now, that does not mean they are running company software on those devices. Challenges to make that happen are huge.

While consumers may be willing to provide information for a small benefit even if security can not be guaranteed, the risk of security breaches is much higher for companies. Rewriting software applications for iOS systems will take time. Sharing access to make the integration work will be a challenge for both companies, especially for Apple with its strong tradition of secrecy.

The opportunities are also huge.

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Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D., President, Global Collaborations, Inc.

Oh gosh, I can't overstate the potential disruption and change this partnership could bring to industries that use a lot of devices, like healthcare and retail.

It's important to note that IBM will also offer AppleCare for Macs too.

The challenge in my mind is that Apple still thinks of itself (within the rank-and-file at least) as rebellious and somewhat proprietary, and as a company it is borderline capricious in some of the decisions it makes. The arbitrary elimination of native support for various file systems (support for NTFS is kinda-sorta there, but you can't use that file system for back-ups anymore), and the changing of the connector on the iPhone 5 and new iPad are irritating for consumers, but potentially completely distracting and expensive for retailers. This is not IBM's style at all.

IBM learned the hard way, about 20 years ago, that it's better to stick with industry standards (remember micro-channel computer architectures and token ring networks? If you're under 50, the answer to both is probably no).

So I HOPE that a little bit of IBM's hard-learned compatibility consciousness will work its way into Apple. If it does, I can't see an end to the upside really.

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Paula Rosenblum, Managing Partner, RSR Research

By bringing together the analytics and enterprise-scale computing of IBM with the elegant user experience of iPhone and iPad, this partnership will deliver a new level of value for businesses. Many IBMers have utilized Apple devices and software for years for business applications. This capability is now being shared with the world. My obviously prejudiced perspective is that this partnership will enhance the brand value of both companies and provide previously unimagined services to business people for the foreseeable future. This is all goodness.

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Ralph Jacobson, Global Retail Industry Analytics Marketing Executive, IBM

As much as I think the possibilities could be endless here, these two companies couldn't be any more different! Apple tries to be sassy, hip, young, but man, they don't do software well at all!

Okay, before you start throwing things at me, I don't mean that the software is bad, I mean that they make changes that are not for the better. They make upgrades that run forever. They lack standards and apparently don't ask the actual customer how they want the user interface to look like when a call comes in. Do I really want a choice of 4 buttons to answer my phone? Arggg!

Nuff said! IBM, on the other hand, would not be where they are had they not been the regimented, learn-from-their-customer kind of company they are.

Can these two marry and live happily ever after? Maybe with a lot of couples counseling. But I'm hoping Big Blue will teach Apple some disciplines and Apple will teach Big Blue some new tricks. For my 2 cents!

Lee Kent, Sharing Insights for Success in Retail, YourRetailAuthority


We are in an era of thin clients and the cloud and the most effective low-cost platform is Android or HTML5. The only reason an enterprise will choose a non-Microsoft solution is based on reducing licensing fees and IBM and Apple do not address this concern.

I believe there were some impressive HTML5-driven retail applications at the NRF show last year being demonstrated. Enterprise is going to likely focus on thin clients ($99 Android tablets) and HTML5 will be the standard for enterprise RAD development for the future to come.

Ed Dunn, Founder, (Stealth Operation)

As is the case with all partnerships, the greatest challenge in the Apple/IBM working relationship will be navigating the cultural differences between very different companies, different histories, different languages, and different decision making processes. Also not to be dismissed, is the lingering but strong cultural bias against such cooperation after being fierce competitors in the 1980s and 1990s.

Addressing those challenges will be well worth it, as there is no question that by working together then will create something far greater, in retail as well as in other large industries that need more enterprise-class solutions that combine mobility, cloud, big data, and ultimately the internet of things.

A great alliance team will be able to aid in the navigation of the challenges, but nothing can replace true, visible, long-term commitment from the top of both Apple and IBM in addressing roadblocks that will occur along the way.

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Verlin Youd, Managing Principal, Verizon

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