Why has sexy Apple gone to bed with big boring IBM?
The Big Blue Apple affair: Inspired by Jobs, driven by Microsoft and Android
You only have to look at Jean Pigozzi's photo of Steve Jobs in his younger, rebellious years to see just how far apart "cool" Apple once was from "legacy" IBM. He was pictured flipping the middle finger to the stuffed shirts at IBM while standing outside their stuffy offices in New York City .
Ah, glory days, when IBM had just released its first boring personal computer while the seven-year-old Apple was poised to throw its first beautifully conceived Macintosh into the fray.
But business is business, it seems.
The recent enterprise deal between the two firms also seems to run counter to the logic of BYOD (bring your own device to work), a trend we’ve been hit over the head with for the past few years.
BYOD works like this: consumers like iPhones, they buy iPhones, consumers work for companies, those consumers bring their iPhones to work place.
Not only that, but Apple enjoys 15 per cent of the global smartphone market, according to Gartner. Apple’s iPad is 36 per cent of the tablets with the iPad.
So why would Apple get its hands covered in blue?
The partnership with IBM sees the computing and services giant agreeing to sell iPads and iPhones loaded with 150 IBM business apps ported to iOS.
Apple does the easy bit – support.
The IBM-Apple deal comes at a timely moment – a moment when there are signs that we could be at a tipping point in Apple’s dominance of corporate devices.
Apple’s smartphone presence has been in near permanent retreat since the arrival of Android and with the ascendancy of Samsung’s Galaxy phones.
Apple's declining fortunes
Peak Apple was in the last quarter of 2011 – that was when the firm held 25 per cent of the worldwide share for devices sold by vendor, according to Gartner. On tablets, Apple is now losing share while Android gains – Android grew at 127 per cent last year, while the market share of iOS shank.
In the context of the supposed BYOD backdraft from consumer to enterprise, this is bad news for Apple.
Somebody else used to have massive market share in mobile phones, too. Who was it? Let me think. Ah, yes, Nokia. And in the enterprise, RIM.
Is Apple in danger of becoming the next Nokia or RIM?
The Reg’s Simon Rockman writes here that there exists a duopoly in phones, only membership of that duopoly is never secure. Ericsson and then Nokia became drunk on an arrogance born through majority market share, and got their crowns knocked off.
As Rockman writes, only of Microsoft: “Wars are not usually won. They are lost.”
It would seem Apple’s time has been and gone. Long-term decline is here – not to non-existence, but at least to a new normal on market share. Rather like the Mac – single-digit but entrenched figure in the business desktop landscape.
Apple and the enterprise
The question for Apple, then, is, how does all this consumer setback feed into the enterprise, and will this contagion spread into tablets?
How does Apple stop the iPad and iPhone following the Mac into six per cent market share?
It’s not that Android is the only plume of dust on Apple’s device horizon. There’s Microsoft, too...
OK, Surface didn't do too brilliantly ... But enterprise is familiar with Microsoft.
Sure, laugh it up – I would, too. Windows Phone has less than five per cent of the market and for every Surface sold costs Microsoft money. But Microsoft offers the enterprise something Apple doesn’t: security and familiarity.
CIOs are a pragmatic people – their firms are often tied to Microsoft IT and skills, too, as Windows has a broad, well-understood product line.
CIOs I speak to like the fact Windows can be controlled and managed via Active Directory. Suddenly your network is more secure from rogue operators and you can lock things down, and stop viruses and spyware being downloaded.
Furthermore, there’s the idea that apps can be built for Windows Phone and Windows 8 using tools their techies know – Visual Studio – not using tools or sandboxed runtime unique to a company that’s relatively unimportant in corporate IT.
Microsoft this week held its Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), where it demonstrated an app running exactly the same way, with exactly the same UI, on a Windows PC, tablet and Windows Phone.
That ubiquity and cross-platform portability, without the need to re-code or building separate versions of your apps, will be compelling for any CIO.
And if you think Windows 8 is the biggest hurdle in stopping all of this, think again: Microsoft is pulling back from the Metro-or-bust approach of Windows 8.
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 18,000 total) 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 say to 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.
There are negatives for Microsoft and for Android, negatives that an Apple/IBM team can exploit.
If an enterprise's IT department 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 with 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. ®