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Apple-IBM Venture Yields First Set of Business Apps
Posted December 10, 2014
Apple-IBM Venture Yields First Set of Business Apps
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By Shirley Siluk. Updated December 10, 2014 10:31AM

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Five months after announcing their partnership, Apple and IBM have come out with their first wave of mobile apps for enterprise iOS users. The IBM MobileFirst for iOS solutions combine Big Blue's big data and analytics capabilities with Apple's focus on user experience and product design.

The first wave of apps are targeted at enterprises in several key industries: airlines, banking, financial services, government, insurance, retail and telecommunications. Among the apps' first adopters are Air Canada, Banorte, Citi and Sprint.

"This is a big step for iPhone and iPad in the enterprise," said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president for IBM Global Business Services, added that the apps are aimed directly at "the new quest of business -- smart technologies that unlock new value at the intersection of big data and individual engagement."

'Tremendous' ROI

We reached out to Mike Gilfix, IBM's director of Enterprise Mobile Product, to learn more about how and why Apple and IBM developed this first wave of enterprise apps.

Gilfix said the companies chose to begin by focusing on a few target industries where new big data- and analytics-driven apps could be "truly transformative." For example, he said, the Plan Flight app was designed to help airline pilots make better-informed decisions that can improve both safety and fuel efficiency. It was also an area in which pilots previously didn't have any available help from mobile technologies.

The results so far have shown "tremendous" returns on investment, Gilfix said.

Standardization and Customizability

Developed collaboratively by both companies using interactive processes, the Apple-IBM mobile apps come with "a tremendous amount of pre-built functionality," Gilfix said. At the same time, they are also designed to support customization for each individual enterprise user. In general, Gilfix said, the apps deliver a 70/30 mix of standardization and customizability.

IBM will provide global support for enterprise users that adopt the new apps, while Apple will offer 24/7 assistance with devices through its AppleCare for the Enterprise program. Built using Apple's design philosophy, the iOS apps are intended to be user-friendly, both for enterprise professionals and for the customers they serve. For example, Gilfix said, the Trusted Advice app is designed to help banking and financial professionals easily walk their clients through a range of scenarios for better decision-making.

"It crosses the chasm between the person using the technology and their client," Gilfix said.

Moving forward, Gilfix said Apple and IBM will continue working together to develop future waves of apps for other industry sectors. The goal is to eventually release more than 100 mobile apps for enterprise iOS users.

"This is just the beginning of that partnership," Gilfix said, adding that future apps will continue to incorporate feedback and user experiences from the early adopter organizations. "I'm really excited about the next wave."

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