IBM and Apple may have raised one or two eyebrows following their decision to link up to develop IBM-based software for iPads and iPhones. But the deal should surprise no one. It works for both parties: as IBM continues its company-wide transition from hardware, linking up with Apple to provide businesses with easy-to-use, secure enterprise apps on the most popular mobile devices in the world is a no-brainer.
Meanwhile, iPads and iPhones account for nearly three-quarters of all mobile device activations within businesses, driven almost entirely by employees wanting to use their own smartphone or tablet at work, a trend known as “bring your own device”. The influx of these personal phones means security is a serious concern for IT departments, and teaming up with a company that has such a strong reputation in that area will no doubt boost Apple’s standing within the enterprise space. Integration with IBM services such as its mobile device management platform, MaaS360, will only benefit businesses looking to shore up the safety of sensitive information on employees’ phones.
Rooted in design
Despite the position taken by some enthusiastic reporters, Apple and IBM have never really been enemies. Steve Jobs himself admired IBM and shared its design principles – even enlisting iconic American designer Paul Rand to create the logo for his first post-Apple company, NeXT. And current Apple CEO Tim Cook knows his way around the IBM brand too, having worked in its PC division for more than a decade.
In an interview following the announcement of the deal, Cook spoke of how “complementary” Apple and IBM are. His words are illustrative of the shift that has brought the two businesses together. There are deep synergies between the two companies, particularly in the attitude towards the development of products and services – they both strive for excellence and have philosophies rooted in design. In that sense, they’re very good bedfellows.
The time is right for the pair to try again with a partnership. When they partnered on three projects in the late 1980s and early ’90s, both companies were very different from the success stories we see today. Steve Jobs had left Apple and the company was going through a tough time. IBM was struggling too. From a design perspective, the impact of Rand and fellow designer Charles Eames was very much on the wane. Small wonder, then, that the projects, designed to challenge rivals like Microsoft and Intel, foundered and were eventually scrapped.
Fast forward 20 years and the companies are in far better shape. Both are listed among the top three brands in the world. Apple has made itself one of the most valuable companies on the planet by releasing slick products that have revolutionised the design of consumer electronics and the very nature of the music industry. Meanwhile, IBM’s spirit and determination have seen it through: its commitment to good design has been restored and it is arguably in better shape than it’s ever been.
To say both Cook and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty took charge of their respective companies with large shoes to fill would be an understatement. Apple’s success under Jobs is well documented, while IBM was led by iconic figures like Thomas Watson, Louis Gerstner and Sam Palmisano. They both inherited extremely successful companies, and taking the reins at a company that’s doing well is arguably far harder than assuming control at a firm in decline. So decisions like this that are set to deliver mutual success make even more sense.
Businesses are being served up a slice of Apple and Big Blueberry pie, and this time it’s set to taste far sweeter.