LAS VEGAS -- Apple's conspicuous absence at IBM's major enterprise mobility event here this week raised questions about the vendors' much-ballyhooed partnership.
Apple was not present at this week’s InterConnect conference, which drew 21,000 attendees, and IBM did not spend much time discussing its partner. IBM made one Apple iOS-related announcement and held only a handful of iOS breakout sessions among the hundreds of other mobile sessions.
"This is not some small little partnership, and this is not a small little event," said Jack Gold, principal analyst at J. Gold Associates in Northborough, Mass. "This is a big deal."
IBM will showcase Apple more at future events geared toward different audiences, said Phil Buckellew, vice president of IBM MobileFirst.
"A lot of the Apple partnership is oriented toward helping the line of business, the value that they can achieve," he said. "We’ve got a lot of things planned at some of the upcoming more line-of-business-oriented shows."
Apple-IBM partnership progress
IBM and Apple said in July they would work together to build more than 100 enterprise apps for iOS, sold by IBM along with iPhones and iPads. This included new services for managing and securing iOS devices and apps.
Since then, the companies have released the first 10 apps, and they are working with more than 50 pilot customers, Buckellew said. This week at InterConnect, IBM launched an iOS-specific version of its MobileFirst Platform, which allows developers to build and deploy native, Web and hybrid apps.
IBM is seeing demand for its Apple apps and services from companies of all sizes in a variety of verticals, Buckellew said.
‘Friends with benefits’
The partnership is important for both companies.
"They need each other," Gold said. "Apple needs IBM -- they wouldn't admit it -- but I think IBM needs Apple more."
IBM gives Apple, which became the most successful company in the world by making and selling consumer technology, the power of an enterprise sales force with a large existing customer base. Apple gives businesses a compelling reason to select IBM as its go-to vendor for deploying and managing iOS apps and devices.
"The partnership allows Apple and IBM to have reach together that they couldn't have individually," said Benjamin Robbins, co-CEO of Palador, a mobility consulting firm in Seattle. "They're friends with benefits."