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 parts one, two and three of the series]
In this blog post I would like to tackle our fourth question: Is this partnership really something different?
To answer this question it is first critical to understand how mobile, cloud, and big data are being brought together in this partnership. Contrary to popular belief, the fundamental opportunity being tackled by Apple and IBM in this partnership is not mobility, but the integration of mobile, cloud, and analytics. This may seem like a semantic distinction, but a quick look at the mega vendors in each of these areas shows a surprising lack of overlap:
Mobile Operating Systems: Apple, Google, Samsung, Microsoft, Blackberry
Enterprise Mobility Management: AirWatch by VMware, SAP Afaria, MobileIron, Citrix XenMobile, Tangoe, Good Technology, Blackberry, IBM MaaS360 by Fiberlink
Cloud Infrastructure: Amazon, Microsoft, Rackspace, IBM, Cisco, HP, Google, GoGrid, Terremark
Analytics: IBM, SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, SAS
Despite the mega vendors’ assertions that they understand the overlap between mobility, cloud, and analytics, the level of convergence between the domains is relatively limited. The areas of overlap represent an opportunity that has been endlessly debated over the past few years, but seldom approached or coordinated through a seamless and integrated offering.
The mobile part of this partnership is fairly obvious between Apple’s devices, the App Store, IBM’s Bluemix platform, and IBM’s MobileFirst initiative. However, the cloud and big data aspects of this announcement have not been explained in detail as of yet in the general press.
The Convergence of Analytics, Cloud, and Mobile
From a cloud perspective, IBM has quickly acquired over a dozen companies to develop IBM Cloud. Topped by its acquisition of SoftLayer, IBM is able to support the high performance cloud workloads often associated with mobile applications in a scalable and secure manner. From an infrastructure perspective, IBM Cloud competes directly with Amazon Web Services, Google, and Microsoft Azure. The opportunity to directly link IBM Cloud to Apple provides interesting opportunities to improve mobile-cloud applications. After all, it’s not a coincidence that Amazon recently came out with its own phone or that every mega vendor has been pushing both mobile and cloud so heavily.
But for all the talk of understanding the relationships between mobile and cloud, vendors on both sides of this symbiotic relationship have been slow to join forces and create a truly seamless experience on the enterprise side. IBM/Apple provides an opportunity to bring mobile and cloud closer together for the mobile apps and services that increasingly define business.
The big data and analytics aspects of this relationship were mentioned both by CEOs Tim Cook and Ginni Rometty. In isolation, this can be a bit difficult to parse since IBM has such a large variety of solutions in this category ranging from storage and predictive analytics to business intelligence and vertical-specific solutions.
To begin with, IBM/Apple customers should start by thinking about vertical and department-specific analytics. Specific applications such as customer experience management analytics provided within IBM acquisitions Tealeaf and The Now Factory would be an interesting place to start. There is an opportunity to create vertical and role specific applications that include capabilities of both IBM analytics and iOS. By providing these analytics in conjunction with large-scale mobile applications, IBM has an opportunity to become a default provider of customer analytics for iOS applications over time.
This opportunity actually undersells IBM’s potential opportunity to bring analytics and big data into the Apple ecosystem. IBM has made a commitment for Watson to become a ten billion dollar business contributor, which will require a variety of new mobile applications to be created. The mobile/Watson relationship should only grow now that IBM is focused on using Apple’s iOS 8 APIs to create applications that closely tie into the device.
IBM also has specific departmental analytics such as talent analytics from its Kenexa acquisition and sales performance management from Varicent, supply chain analytics through Emptoris, and, many more. IBM has a core portfolio of analytics from its Cognos, SPSS, Algorithmics, and OpenPages offerings, among others that can be used both directly as analytic solutions and as backend processing engines for mobile applications. The IBM/Apple partnership provides opportunities to further open up these analytic tools.
For instance, IBM is putting aspects of these software tools in the cloud for iOS developers to use either on a utility or per-use basis. IBM offers some of its analytics software through its Bluemix platform that also provides developers access to iOS. An interesting convergence could be if Watson and its ‘cognitive’ abilities are leveraged to act as the point of contact for end users. The natural language processing capabilities and Watson’s ability to reason through requests can be used to access and manipulate data in exciting ways. Today Watson is deployed to handheld devices for doctors and to smartphones for certain client advisor engagements. In the future, perhaps we can imagine a sleek SIRI like interface that can deliver big data analytics to anyone’s mobile device
Synergies to Consider
You cannot consider the importance of the Apple and IBM relationship simply by staying within the safety zone of the typical enterprise technology box. You need to think far outside the box to make full sense of it.
From a pure technology perspective, the mobile app development, cloud, and analytics software integration is well understood inside of IBM, and the mobile device side – in terms of the devices themselves as well as the user interface and mobile user behaviors – is well understood by Apple. IBM can’t duplicate Apple’s dominant position as a mobile hardware provider within the enterprise. Further Apple cannot possibly hope to duplicate IBM’s cloud and analytics platforms and infrastructure capabilities. The synergies here are more than enough to justify the partnership.
But IBM brings much more to the game that Apple needs to succeed – and that comes down to IBM’s immense range of hands-on domain expertise across every imaginable vertical, including healthcare. Healthcare is a vertical currently very near and dear to Apple’s heart as it prepares to release iOS 8, HealthKit and its new wearable devices. These devices will first prove themselves as sophisticated medical tools, and as Apple pulls in third party developers and the healthcare industry itself into the fold, IBM can help drive key healthcare efforts in merging mobile, cloud and healthcare analytics for Apple.
Apple will operate at multiple levels within healthcare – through both patient- and doctor-centric capabilities. Doctors will likely rely on domain expertise from IBM to pull together the apps they need to analyze all the big data that will be generated for both patient care and for advanced research.
So we’ve gone from a simple hardware-software deal to one that is far more ambitious and advanced. You can extend the healthcare example above to any other vertical, as these same kinds of efforts will be launched across all of them. The beneficiaries here will be the enterprises that operate in each vertical, but if IBM happens to sell a lot of new software and infrastructure services and Apple happens to sell a lot more enterprise-targeted hardware along the way, that’s fine too.
Is this partnership really something different? What do you think?…