Last week, two companies once known to be arch enemies – Apple and IBM – announced they were partnering to deliver business-to-business (B2B) mobile apps called IBM MobileFirst for iOS. While there is a lot of speculation about what this means and the type of mobile applications they will actually develop together, there is one thing that is 100% clear. Enterprise mobile apps have arrived and they are being backed by two of the largest technology companies in the world.
From my perspective as the CEO of a company that provides B2B mobile apps for the communications industry, this means several important things:
1) First, it validates what I have been saying for the past few months – the PC is dying and the mobile device, particularly the tablet, will become the primary method of computing the future. To the extent individuals are increasingly using mobile for their work, developers will eventually have to create solutions that allow for an excellent user experience on the operating systems of the mobile device (which is different than the OS of the PC). This is why Apple and IBM will start to develop B2B mobile apps for devices.
2) Apple products are increasingly becoming a business tool, as opposed to just a consumer device for fun and games. For slightly more than a year now, Apple has been subtly putting stakes in the ground in the B2B space (i.e. its VPP Store for Business). Partnering with IBM will help ensure that iPhones and iPads become more ingrained in the corporate world. Earlier this year, a Forrester Report indicated that, “Apple won about 8% of global business and government spending on computers and tablets in 2012.” At that time, it was looking like Apple would have 11% of the market in just a few years. The partnership with IBM will likely accelerate this.
3) BYOD or “Bring Your Own Device” will continue to permeate the business landscape and IT professionals will soon have more resources at their disposal through the IBM and Apple partnership. “The cloud” will continue to change the dynamic of technology within organizations as it becomes more efficient and cost effective to host data off-premise and issues of security become less of a concern. Business units within companies will increasingly look to IT for ways to take advantage of the changing technological landscape. IBM and Apple are furthering the opportunity that is presenting itself whereby IT will be viewed in a more consultative and less tactical way.
It’s important to put the IBM/Apple partnership into context. For decades, Oracle has preached the virtues of the cloud and the fact that the PC was nothing more than a mechanism to deliver the Internet. Amazon is now focusing on the cloud (i.e. Amazon Web Services); Apple is about mobile; Google is about Mobile; Microsoft is now preaching mobile and the cloud (i.e. Office 365/Surface tablets). And all of this leads to a prediction. In less than 5 years, PCs will be like cassette tapes and CDs. You won’t see them very much. Everyone will have a tablet and when they go to work, they will place them into a docking station. IT rooms that used to store dozens of black box servers will become offices. The writing is on the wall and the technology behemoths are all suggesting the same thing – developing a mobile strategy is no longer an option for businesses, it is a necessity.