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Why has sexy Apple gone to bed with big boring IBM?

The Big Blue Apple affair: Inspired by Jobs, driven by Microsoft and Android

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Job cuts, office closures and product rejigging: it's all change at Microsoft

Microsoft, meanwhile, made an important strategic move this week.

Announcing 12,500 jobs cuts of the total 18,000 would come from Nokia, Microsoft also said it was pulling out of markets where it traditionally has been successful. The suggestion was markets where Windows Phone sales have been weak would be sacrificed. That means greater focus on the US and Europe.

Tony Prophet, corporate vice president of Windows marketing, told WPC that Microsoft is ”embracing the mouse and keyboard” – meaning a return of start menus and screens, and the ability for Metro apps to run in re-sizeable Windows just like any pre-Windows-8 app on the desktop.

Windows 8 had been the biggest roadblock to Microsoft success on tablets and phones in the enterprise. As Microsoft returns to the desktop, the roadblock disappears.

B-Y-Oh no you don't...

But what of BYOD - the invisible hand of the market?

Nonsense, BYOD is a product of the noise machine of the tech company marketing departments, analyst firms and journalists.

I have a friend who works in corporate IT who has been reviewing the company’s device strategy. Vendors come in and talk about how their handsets are ideal for BYOD. “I tell them I’m not interested in BYOD, and just tell me what the phone does,” he tells me.

There have been some rollouts, but what several IT departments have found is that letting people bring their own phones and tablets into work is a disaster. Some rollouts have now been cancelled.

They are a problem because IT can’t manage the devices and corporate networks choke up as people watch videos rather than checking the corporate email.

For staff, the downside is worse: the company cuts its costs on devices while the user gets to pick up any repaid bills if the phone screws up.

Now, we're being told that BYOD is dead – it’s all about "CYOD" – choose your own device. Companies will, from a limited pallet, let employees pick from a section of pre-approved handsets that they can use.

Enter IBM.

There are negatives for Microsoft and for Android, negatives that an Apple-and-IBM team can exploit.

If an enterprise's IT dept is worried about the threat to the company's network and end points caused by users downloading malware from the App Store, what about Google’s Play Store?

The Android Market is a wild west of apps compared to Apple’s control freakery. So much so, Trend Micro reckons 1 in 10 Android apps are malware. The number of mobile apps infected with malware nearly quadrupled between 2011 and 2013.

As for the Microsoft threat, the biggest threat to Microsoft is Microsoft.

The company has wasted three years building Windows 8 and spent a further two defending and then backtracking from the design. There’s at least another year to go before a more desktoppy Windows 8.1 is delivered – if it is delivered.

Also, there’s the difference in code bases between Windows 8 and Windows Phone and the fact you need to download apps to both from a Microsoft store.

In other words, it might still be Windows, but it’s a whole new Windows that a CIO’s team will need to learn to use and build for.

Further, Windows 8.1 is a work in progress with no guarantee the platform IT targets today will be the same platform in a few years' time after more updates from Microsoft. Remember the heavy bet Microsoft made on Silverlight?

The uncertainty of the Windows platform, therefore, continues apace.

IBM is looking even more appealing as a stable option.

The laissez-faire days of devices in the enterprise are coming to an end.

What IBM delivers is the blue-badge of approval that IT departments need to see on their kit or their services.

Sure, fabtards, sneer all you like, but it was IBM that helped get Red Hat Linus in the data centre door by certifying the Linux on its servers and selling those servers through its worldwide channel.

Same for SugarCRM, a startup which took a gamble that the pull of SaaS would float its business and ran a fractured enterprise strategy. When the company's second CEO, Larry Augustin, was instated, he immediately got to work cutting a partnership deal with IBM. As with Red Hat, this opened the door to business users and SugarCRM has since become the IT department’s choice for SaaS CRM over Salesforce (which gets in the door thanks to line-of-business execs).

Do you want final proof Apple’s tie-up with IBM is a good idea for Apple?

Even Steve Jobs knew when to get into bed with IBM. Sure he flipped IBM the finger in 1983 as he prepared to lock horns with Big Blue as a rival. But his company used IBM’s PowerPC chip architecture on its Macs just over 10 years later in the late 1990s. Then his company was returning from the wilderness and Apple used Power PC under Jobs into the early 2000s.

The reason for using PowerPC? Its blisteringly fast performance.

Sure, Jobs then ditched IBM in 2005 for the “industry standard” Intel. But he knew when to use IBM, and use them he did.

That time has come again now. ®

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