Apple and IBM: Here’s the huge downside that nobody’s talking about.

As you're no doubt aware, this week Apple and IBM announced an exclusive partnership to create enterprise apps for iOS devices, built on IBM's services.

As you’re no doubt aware, this week Apple and IBM announced an exclusive partnership to create enterprise apps for iOS devices, built on IBM’s services. That’s big news that a lot of people are rightly excited about, but what happens to end users who prefer Android? Are they back to carrying two phones?

There’s already been a huge flood of coverage about the announcement on other sites, so I’ll just sum up the general opinions about why it’s good for Apple, IBM, and their customers:

  • Apple—which face it, doesn’t really need that much help in the enterprise—is getting even more legitimacy. Four years in, and the iPad still the business tablet. Apple fan sites are especially excited.
  • Corporate customers get the benefit of working with IBM and Apple together to buy and support their iPhones and iPads—it’s like AppleCare meets enterprise sales and support.
  • Customers get lots of business-orient iOS apps from IBM.
  • IBM gets a boost for its MobileFirst initiative, plus the cool factor of being in a partnership with Apple. Don’t forget that this’ll be huge for Fiberlink MaaS360.
  • Even more cool ideas have been floated, especially around the idea of making more business apps that are augmented by IBM-powered analytics and big data.

There’s also a lot of talk about how this puts other parties at a disadvantage (and that they need to act quickly to counter the announcement), including:

  • Samsung and Samsung Knox
  • Google and Android Work
  • Microsoft and Windows Phone
  • BlackBerry
  • EMM vendors that aren’t Fiberlink
  • Other software giants like Oracle and SAP
  • Other mobile backend as a service providers
  • Other consulting firms like Avanade, Accenture, McKinsey, etc.

This is all well and good—most everything that’s being said about this deal is fairly agreeable, so no issues there.

But what about end users?

The press release mentions “a new class of more than 100 industry-specific enterprise solutions including native apps, developed exclusively from the ground up, for iPhone and iPad;” and “unique IBM cloud services optimized for iOS, including device management, security, analytics and mobile integration.”

If you work at a company that’s an IBM customer, and you happen to be prefer Android or other non-iOS mobile devices, what happens?

I know that end users in the business world still skew heavily towards Apple, but there are enough Android users that lack of support matters. If you’re one of them, do you miss out on a bunch of new mobile apps? Will your Android phone be limited to basics like email and file syncing? Or are you already resigned to that fate?

(Maybe somebody will try to hack or find a loophole to do VDI with iOS images, or somehow publish iOS apps to other devices. I know with Apple’s terms it’s far-fetched, but it’s a thought.)

Some have said that this partnership is likely to have more of an impact for tablets, so it might not matter as much for phones. That’s a good point, but this will still result in a tiered system for different mobile OSes.

If you have a corporate-issued iPad or iPhone to work on all your IBM-based apps, are you going to carry it around in addition to your preferred personal device? We’re back where we were a few years ago.

And what about outside of the US, where Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry all have better representation?

I certainly agree that some great things could come out of the Apple and IBM partnership. But from the end-user perspective this seems like it could be a step back.

Figure 1: The future?

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If I was working at an IBM customer and I would be required to install IBM software on my tablet, I would rather look for a new job.


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Overwhelming positive press for the strategy and how both organizations will benefit.  I'd say more Apple than IBM, but both can do very nicely from this partnership.


For CIO having global procurement and Enterprise AppleCare is great news.


For IBM it's certainly great news for their app dev platform Worklight.  MaaS360 which is already a great EMM will go from strength to strength.


Companies will continue to need to support a range of mobile platforms - IBM's mobile products cover them all anyhow.  It's that a focus is rightly with iOS which is dominant in most corporations.


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