Tech giant romance

Apple <3 IBM: The enterprise mobility alliance

Coman Hamilton

Two age-old rivals are teaming up to collaborate on a new kind of enterprise mobility. But what does it mean for developers?

They spent thirty years banging heads – and now they’re putting them together. As dust slowly settles on the news that Apple and IBM are joining forces to offer improved enterprise mobility, it’s becoming increasingly clear what the partnership means for tech rivals. But what about the average dev team?

IBM analytics, Apple devices

The alliance plans to combine the strengths of both companies into a whole new level of enterprise mobility. For developers, this means that teams can benefit IBM’s cloud services, analytics and big data expertise, while working straight from company iPhones and iPads.

For employees working with these new enterprise solutions, this also means the ability to conduct everyday business, from project management to analytics, with company-specific apps, all tailor-made by Apple and IBM for iOS.

Employers working with sensitive information may also be able to use device management and security tools to monitor their employee’s activities on company devices. The partnership will also bring Apple’s support system AppleCare to an enterprise level, meaning companies can get IT support straight from Apple.

With Apple poised to make its long-anticipated entry into the wearable device market, it’s also possible that some form of smartwatch will play a role the enterprise mobility alliance.

What language is that?

The technical details of the collaboration haven’t been made public for the moment. Although we can’t be sure what lingua franca the two companies are going to be collaborating in, there’s a chance IBM will push to work on a HTML5 cross-platform version of its MobileFirst Platform. Apple will naturally be stubborn about keeping this enterprise solution iOS-native, meaning IBM developers will have to work with Swift or XCode.

Given Apple’s gradual move towards the former, it’s less likely that Apple’s old school language of choice Objective-C will make much of an appearance here. Some commentators have argued that Swift is an attempt to broaden the gap between iOS and Android development, making it difficult for developers to keep a foot in both camps. With elements of trendy languages like JavaScript and Python, Swift has the potential to steal mobile JVM developers away from the Java-loyal Android platform.

What do other tech companies think about this?

Microsoft, Google, Samsung and Blackberry won’t exactly be happy  to see to two tech giants working together like this. Apple and IBM’s rivals will have to work on how they can bring their mobile enterprise solutions up to scratch.

Earlier this year, Microsoft’s push towards enterprise mobility saw Office arrive on the iPad, together with a host of improvements to its Enterprise Mobility Suite.

At the same time, Google’s recently announced answer to enterprise mobility will struggle to do battle with an alliance of this size. Google Work, the company’s first major attempt at a mobile enterprise solution is scheduled to feature in Android L.

Meanwhile, Apple can look forward to selling more devices and gaining IBM’s contacts, while IBM will increase its revenue from cloud services. At the thought of all of these beautiful synergies, Apple CEO Tim Cook could be heard going mushy towards IBM CEO Ginni Rometty in a CNBC interview:

“I think there’s no better two people on earth to do this, or two companies on earth to do this. Or for that matter, any number of companies. I think we fit together like a puzzle.”

Coman Hamilton
Coman was Editor of at S&S Media Group. He has a master's degree in cultural studies and has written and edited content for numerous news, tech and culture websites and magazines, as well as several ad agencies.

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