(3 of 5) Why the IBM / Apple Deal Matters To You: Five Key Questions

In response to IBM and Apple’s announcement that IBM will be Apple’s strategic global partner for enterprise mobility services, Blue Hill Research has identified the key questions that you need to think about as you consider the implications of this massive partnership.  These key questions will be presented in a series of blog posts, and will provide insight on what you need to know, especially if you are considering having your organization partner with IBM on its planned mobile initiatives. [Read part one and two of the series]


IBM and Apple announced four key capabilities based on IBM’s mobile brand:

-IBM MobileFirst for iOS
-IBM MobileFirst platform for iOS
-AppleCare for enterprise
-IBM MobileFirst supply & management

In my prior blog I covered two of the four key capabilities that IBM and Apple recently announced based on IBM’s Mobile Brand: IBM MobileFirst for iOS and IBM MobileFirst platform for iOS. Now let’s cover the remaining two capabilities, AppleCare for the enterprise and IBM MobileFirst supply & management.

AppleCare for Enterprise:

Apple says it will “provide IT departments and end users with 24/7 assistance from Apple’s award-winning customer support group, with on-site service delivered by IBM.” Apple is well known for both its remote and in-person customer support capabilities, whether delivered through the iPhone or at an Apple Store. Although these capabilities have made Apple an exemplar in the consumer world, they were not sufficient for an enterprise world where every device, application, and mobile policy has to be seen in context of corporate cost, app management, security, and governance issues. To handle this last mile of corporate compliance and support, IBM will bring in its service arm to truly add “enterprise scale” to Apple’s consumer focused capabilities.  Rather than having to negotiate AppleCare on an individual device basis, this will allow firms to put all of their devices under a consistent AppleCare contract that includes a variety of enterprise IT expectations.

From a service perspective, IBM will offer support for standard IT challenges such as on-site repair and support for iOS devices, service and support reporting capabilities specific to each enterprise, a one-hour service level agreement to provide IT support for escalated tickets, and call routing to Tier 2 help desk issues for employees who require additional and contextualized mobile help. These capabilities are increasingly important for organizations that have seen their iOS device count quickly accelerate over the last several years. Many organizations have an unfunded mandate to support and repair these devices either through corporate purchases or Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiatives. By providing an option to support iOS devices with the same level of support that is typically expected for corporate IT assets, IBM and Apple have taken out a key obstacle to increasing the size of iOS fleets within an organization.

MobileFirst Supply and Management:

As it is the least transparent to end users, this commitment is undoubtedly the lesser understood of the four parts of this partnership. However, the flipside is that IBM’s commitment to supporting the bulk procurement, activation, and management of iOS devices is vitally important to the growth of iOS deployments within the enterprise.   When the original iPhone came out, there was no way to order multiple devices from a corporate account. Additionally, there was no way for a company to manage multiple iPhones at once or to provide a consistent set of services and security requirements other than to request that employees follow corporate standards.   However, the iPhone’s quick emergence as the dominant smartphone, especially after the launch of the App Store and subsequent application development efforts, led Apple to provide some initial tools for enterprise support. The world can now look to Apple to build the most visually appealing, elegantly designed, and brilliant computing devices on the planet, and to IBM to understand the nuances of vertical-specific technology deployment challenges.

Thus, IBM’s supply chain and management capabilities start coming into place. Through IBM Global Financing, companies can place bulk orders of customized iPhones and iPads that are provided to match corporate standards.  This includes the initial purchase, the activation and securing, and the ongoing management of the devices. IBM will also address the nuances of the purchase including such scenarios as having telecom expense management (TEM) powered through Emptoris Rivermine, a direct purchase through IBM, or integrated with Apple’s procurement website.

The recent acquisition of Fiberlink Communications Corporation and its MaaS360 enterprise mobile management (EMM) solution is a key component of this offering to support the activation and ongoing management of these devices. MaaS360 is currently a top 3 leading enterprise mobile management (EMM) solution.  MaaS360 already supported phones, tablets, and laptops prior to its acquisition by IBM and provided mobility as a service (MaaS) for enterprises to connect, control, and secure laptops and mobile devices. Because of this long history of supporting remote workers and its early move to the cloud, IBM MaaS360 is well suited to support large iOS deployments and to provide a consistent iOS and laptop ecosystem. MaaS360 also supports Windows PCs, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone, Windows RT, and Symbian as a multi-platform device management solution. And, of course, MaaS360 plans to continue its multi-platform support – a necessity in today’s mobile world where companies often have to support multiple types of devices.

The levels and depth of support we’ve described here would be complex to manage in SMB environments – when scaled to the level of IBM’s typical Global 2000 customers the challenges in handling these issues in-house grow exponentially (well, perhaps not exponentially but enormous none the less) and become extremely difficult to manage.

The combined expertise of Apple and IBM to provide these services at a Global 2000 scale represents potentially enormous increases in deployment savings and workforce productivity. Finally, through managing the Apple supply chain IBM customers are assured they will always have timely access to the necessary hardware – and hardware upgrades – their mobile applications will require.

The key question of course is – Can IBM deliver? We believe so.

About Ralph Rodriguez

Ralph Rodriguez is the CEO and Research Fellow of Blue Hill Research and an industry expert across cloud, mobile and security technologies. Ralph brings over 25 years of experience spanning IT management, research and entrepreneurship in a variety of executive CxO roles. Previously Rodriguez served as COO of Nucleus Research, Inc., SVP and Research Director at Aberdeen Group (NYSE:HHS), CTO of Brooks Automation (NASDAQ:BRKS), EVP-CIO of Excelon Corporation (NASDAQ:EXLN) and EVP-CIO of C-bridge Internet Solutions (NASDAQ:CBIS). Rodriguez is currently a Fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and holds a Sc.D. in information systems and a graduate of the management program GPMD-MBA at IESE Business School, Barcelona Spain. Rodriguez is a veteran of the Persian Gulf War.
Posted on August 7, 2014 by Ralph Rodriguez

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