By Mark Cox
IBM and Apple have delivered the first fruits from their strategic partnership announced this summer to achieve the ambitious goal of transforming enterprise mobility. The first ten of what will eventually be over 100 IBM MobileFirst for iOS solutions have been announced, bringing IBM’s big data and analytics capabilities to enterprise iPhone and iPad users.
These first ten apps include two for airlines (covering fuel planning and personalized passenger services), two for government (covering incident awareness and caseworker support), two for banking (small business support, and management of client portfolios), two for retail (sales assistance and pick and pack) and single ones for insurance and telecommunications. All are delivered in a secure environment, embedded with analytics and linked to core enterprise processes.
“These apps were created because of a desire by both companies to see mobility have the impact on enterprises that we have seen have on consumers,” said Alon Kronenberg, Associate Partner & Practice Lead, Mobile Solutions, IBM Canada. “Clearly mobile has changed the game for consumers, and enterprises have to engage with their customers. We felt that hadn’t manifested itself in the enterprise, so this partnership was to enable those changes.”
Some IBM partners and large customers had previously designed their own solutions to integrate IBM software into Apple products, but the MobileFirst for iOS apps permit a deeper level of integration. They are easily customizable, and can be deployed, managed and upgraded via cloud services from IBM.
“Apple does design like no one else and they are very much involved as far as establishing the design and look and feel of the application,” Kronenberg said. “IBM brings the domain expertise, industry knowledge and integration ability. So with these apps, you have the well-designed, experienced integration that people expect from IBM.”
While the apps are designed to be enterprise capable, Kronenberg said that their market is larger than just big enterprises.
“The design point is not just for large enterprises,” he said. “These iOS apps are designed to solve a business problem, and those problems are the same whether you are a large or a mid-market enterprise, so we expect that they will be appropriate to the mid-market as well.”
For IBM partners with a mobility focus, these applications offer enormous potential, since partners will customize, integrate and deploy the apps for clients.
“Our intent is to use these applications to drive transformation within the enterprise, and we will rely heavily on partners, once the seeds have been planted, to meet the demand,” Kronenberg said. “This isn’t just about us creating 100 new apps. It’s about how they radically change how enterprises engage their employees, and partners will pay a key role in that.”
The solutions won’t be available on Apple’s App Store either, Kronenberg quipped.
IBM will also be supporting its partners on this initiative by giving them access to several new tools, communities and solutions.
The IBM MobileFirst Platform for iOS will be available to IBM partners to help them build, deploy and securely manage custom solutions and apps, and integrate analytics and data from enterprise systems.
Apple will also be offering support making more than 4,000 new APIs in iOS 8 available, as well as a specific enterprise developer effort to help Business Partners foster innovation on iOS.
The IBM developerWorks mobile community will provide access to resources aimed at helping Business Partners take advantage of the new platform and extend their services.
Finally, the IBM MobileFirst Protect solution will offer partners flexibility and responsiveness with additional support for iOS upgrades on day one, as well as on-demand support for any iOS device.
Kronenberg noted that this is only the first wave of IBM MobileFirst for iOS apps, and that more are on the way.
“Our intent is to deploy over 100 of these apps, and we are already on the way for wave two, but the actual apps and verticals have not been announced yet,” he said.