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Apple and IBM’s partnership – what it means for enterprise mobility and MBaaS


 Over the last week I’ve been asked several times to comment on the partnership that was recently announced by Apple and IBM. In their own words, the charter is to “redefine the way work will get done, address key industry mobility challenges and spark true mobile-led business change.” An ambitious and broad goal, what does this statement actually mean for enterprise mobility and how does it impact the Mobile Backend-as-a-Service (MBaaS) landscape, if at all?

Grand Plans for the (distant) Future

It is not yet clear what exactly IBM and Apple are going to implement. What is clear is there remains much groundwork and, while there is plenty of speculation across the tech world, IBM and Apple haven’t built anything concrete yet. Forward-looking announcements aren’t exactly a novelty, but this is an unusual move for Apple, a company that typically creates its magic behind closed doors and unveils things only once they’re fully baked. And, while IBM is the behemoth of enterprise IT services, only time will tell whether a partnership between these two culturally very different companies will thrive, or is simply the beginning of a slow-motion collision, to borrow from an old Scott McNealy-ism.

One Platform to Rule Them All

Any solution that IBM and Apple create together will be in an iOS only solution, which means that it will only work within Apple’s ecosystem. As any enterprise with mobile ambitions can attest to, that is simply not enough. Ignoring Android’s dominant market share, for one, along with enterprise mobile giants such as Samsung is not an option.

The data backs this up: Gartner estimates that by 2017 half of enterprises will require their employees to bring their own mobile device to work, and only 44% of consumers currently use iOS mobile devices (with falling market share). While Apple and IBM’s enterprise mobility solutions may prove useful for iOS devices, this only partially addresses any enterprise mobility challenges.

Today’s leading MBaaS vendors pride themselves in their ability to create applications across all important platforms. built.io has SDKs for native iOS and Android development, as well as supporting cross-platform apps via Xamarin or JavaScript.  Successful MBaaS means pursuing an agenda that provides enterprises choice and freedom from vendor lock-in. Thinking omni-channel instead of single-platform will only become more important as mobile evolves and additional devices and channels emerge as part of the Internet of Things. Don’t hold your breath for Apple and IBM to tackle that any time soon.

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