Apple-IBM deal delivers 100 iOS business apps; Watson next

IBM just rolled out 48 more iOS-exclusive apps as part of its MobileFirst for iOS partnership with Apple, bringing the grand total to 100 business apps for iPhones and iPads.

This month, 48 iOS-exclusive enterprise apps were released through the Apple-IBM partnership, which are designed to be easy-to-use business tools with powerful analytics capabilities.

IBM in 2014 promised to roll out enterprise-focused iOS apps to better enable iPhones and iPads in the workplace by the end of 2015. Through this deal, IBM and Apple have co-created 100 iOS apps built for 14 different industries, including healthcare, travel, retail and finance -- and 65 different professions within them, IBM said in a statement.

The apps are designed to deliver the consumer-level ease of use in the user interface that Apple is known for, in addition to IBM's powerful analytics capabilities.

"Focusing on the analytics piece is important," said Stephen Monteros, vice president of business development and strategic initiatives at SIGMAnet, an IT consultant in Ontario, Calif., and Apple and IBM partner. "Outcomes are what people want to measure. As long as you can measure outcomes, that's how people make investments."

IBM also plans to integrate artificial intelligence capabilities into apps, too, which means iOS users can use a Watson app for more than just choosing gifts. With Watson cognitive capabilities, future iOS apps will be able to continuously learn about the needs of employees and customers over time, and will effectively build upon the data of each with more use. The idea behind the Watson integration is to deliver the user the most relevant information and data to enhance the quality of decision making and results.

Neither IBM nor Apple have disclosed the number of customers using the new apps, but the companies did release the names of some of their biggest customers, including Air Canada, insurance firm AXA and Coca-Cola Amatil, among others.

One of the earliest IBM MobileFirst for iOS apps was a finance app, called Trusted Advice, and is being used by Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank. The app helps financial advisors manage customer portfolios and securely access financial information from iPads. The tool uses IBM predictive analytics technology to test recommendations using modeling tools, and to securely complete transactions from anywhere, IBM said.

Apple's enterprise aspirations continue

Apple has been quite vocal about its efforts to expand into the enterprise, as it has inked deals with large enterprise players, such as Cisco, in addition to IBM, and has made smaller deals with enterprise file-sharing platform Box. During the BoxWorks conference in September, Apple CEO Tim Cook made a guest appearance, where he revealed the importance of these partnerships in order to further immerse Apple into the mobile enterprise.

Cook stated during an earnings call that sinking iPad sales were behind the deal with IBM, as he viewed the enterprise as a fairly untapped market for iPads, as well as iPhones.

In late August, Apple struck another major deal in an agreement with Cisco, where Cisco agreed to build a "fast lane" for iOS content on Cisco corporate networks. This allows IT departments that use Cisco networks to prioritize corporate content traveling to and from iPhones and iPads over other content on other mobile devices. 

I believe IBM knew about the iPad Pro, and it was one of the reasons that got IBM to do the deal with Apple [in] the first place.
Patrick Moorheadpresident and principal Analyst of Moor Insights & Strategy

"Apple has definitely increased their mind share in business, if nothing else, from the attention they've gotten from the IBM and Cisco partnerships," said Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst of Moor Insights & Strategy. "Apple may have picked up a little bit of market share, but this is a slow-moving process. You can't do this overnight."

What's missing from the apps IBM has built for Apple devices in the past year are apps that fully take advantage of the new capabilities of Apple's latest product, the iPad Pro.

The MobileFirst for iOS apps are not built to be iPad Pro exclusive, and are not made to take advantage of the new features the latest iOS device has to offer, such as the larger screen, more powerful processor, multitasking capabilities, the Apple Pen stylus and more.

"They have to optimize the apps for the iPad Pro," Moorhead said. "I believe IBM knew about the iPad Pro, and it was one of the reasons that got IBM to do the deal with Apple [in] the first place."

Although the 100 apps IBM promised are available, the partnership is not over. And building apps specially made for the iPad Pro is not only the company's next move, but the project is already underway, IBM said. The company is building apps to "take advantage" of the unique feature the iPad Pro brings to the table.

Ramin Edmond is a news writer with TechTarget's End-User Computing media group. Contact him at [email protected].

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