Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in IBM’s MobileFirst for iOS analyst update to hear about the progress made to IBM and Apple’s application development and enterprise mobile management platform. Since the partnership began in 2014, it has matured significantly, now providing more than 100 industry apps for iOS devices and expanding IBM’s Apple-related support and services to 70 countries. IBM’s MobileFirst for iOS partnership seeks to provide a foundation for enterprises to undergo mobile transformation through the integration of mobile, cloud, and analytics. It also underscores IBM’s increasing focus on partnerships with third-party solution providers – ushering in a new reputation for IBM that it has not traditionally had. Let’s dive deeper into the specifics of MobileFirst for iOS and what it means for enterprise mobility.
The goal of IBM and Apple’s MobileFirst for iOS partnership is to change the way employees work by integrating mobile-based process changes on the front end with IBM’s cognitive analytics on the back end. MobileFirst for iOS accomplishes this by providing a suite of industry use case applications, as well as custom enterprise apps aimed at problems specific to an individual client, for clients across a variety of industries. As a component of the partnership, IBM also provides enterprise purchasing and support programs for both mobile and desktop Apple products, as well as full device lifecycle management through its managed mobility services.
IBM MobileFirst for iOS offers either fully customized apps built from scratch for the specific enterprise need, or prebuilt apps. For prebuilt apps, IBM works directly with the enterprise to integrate with its back-end systems, tailor the app to enterprise-specific needs, and incorporate multiple enterprise data sources. Thus, even the prebuilt apps provide a fair amount of enterprise customization, at least in the deployment phase, and this degree of integration and enterprise specificity is a strong differentiator for the MobileFirst for iOS platform versus other enterprise mobile solutions aimed at a more general audience. At the time of writing, there is a roughly 50/50 split between enterprises seeking fully customized apps from IBM, and those that work with IBM to configure its prebuilt apps to their needs.
For MobileFirst for iOS, Apple provides a fleet of devices that, when coupled with IBM’s applications and cognitive analytics, broaden both IBM and Apple’s footprint in enterprise mobility. A key differentiator IBM provides in its partnership with Apple is its cognitive solutions and cloud capabilities: natural language user interaction, machine learning systems, and integration with IBM’s cloud platform, Bluemix. IBM has spent significant time developing and refining its cognitive solutions, which learn as they are used, thus enabling increasingly more intelligent decision making. With MobileFirst for iOS, enterprises are able to change the architecture of how their organizations are run – from front-end app interaction, to back end learning systems that feed new insights and analytics from app data.
MobileFirst for iOS also takes advantage of IBM’s BlueMix platform and the “API economy” – a term used to describe the resulting business impact of linked apps, processes, and data amongst different business entities, creating a library of shared information that acts as a starting point for IT functionality. BlueMix will help IBM to quickly roll out apps to the enterprise, as well as allow enterprise apps and cognitive analytics to scale with the business and to operate in the cloud. However, as more of business takes place in the cloud, this integration will no longer be a significant differentiator for IBM, but rather a base requirement of a managed mobility solution.
True “digital transformation” does not arrive with the deployment of a single app or basic mobility solution. It is about the convergence of many apps, computing resources, and enabling technologies that work together to provide business users with new insights and process improvements. Since the beginning of its MobileFirst for iOS partnership with Apple, IBM’s intent has been to create a platform for mobile transformation – from the app, through IBM cloud services for security, analytics, and device management.
For enterprises that use iOS devices, IBM provides purchasing and device management options, and thus should be considered as a potential partner for those companies currently invested in Apple iOS. Companies looking for tailor-made iOS enterprise mobile applications, or those that want to put cognitive, machine learning, or natural language capabilities into their iOS mobile applications, should also consider IBM for its cognitive analytics solutions and experience in creating over 100 industry apps. Finally, Blue Hill believes that IBM’s MobileFirst for iOS partnership demonstrates experience and relative strength compared to competitors by combining cloud, mobile, and analytics into enterprise-grade iOS mobile apps that can be deployed quickly and can move the needle toward enterprise mobile transformation.