As intriguing as it might be to have Apple and IBM this week committing to work together on building mobile applications for the enterprise, the more important thing is to focus on where mobile computing in the enterprise is headed versus where it is today.
Usage of mobile computing devices such as the Apple iPad is still fairly limited to consuming data that resides in a Web application. Not only is that often a fairly frustrating experience for the end user, the mobile device itself is still a fairly awkward medium for creating content that needs to be shared across multiple enterprise applications.
Phil Buckellew, vice president of enterprise mobile for IBM, says the real significance of the IBM alliance with Apple is that the two companies have committed to work together to fundamentally improve the mobile computing experience. The companies are teaming up to offer 100 new business applications built using Apple Objective-C and Swift programming tools in a way that enables them to run natively on Apple devices.
Those applications, says Buckellew, will make use of IBM analytics and Bluemix backend services running on the IBM SoftLayer cloud to fundamentally change business processes across the enterprise. In fact, Buckellew says it’s not uncommon for organizations to discover that as they embrace mobile computing they need to re-engineer almost every backend service and business process those applications touch.
The good news is that advances in technologies such as RESTful application programming interfaces (APIs) are making those backend services and processes more accessible. To facilitate that transition, IBM plans to resell Apple iPads and iPhones loaded with applications that Buckellew says will take specific advantage of such Apple device features as cameras and microphones. Those applications will then access services through which IBM will provide everything from governance and management tools to security services, says Buckellew.
IBM will expose those services to other mobile computing platforms. But the nature of the Apple relationship is exclusive in terms of the collaboration effort the two companies are making. Apparently developers will jointly work on creating mobile applications that are optimized for the Apple mobile platform.
All told, IBM and Apple are looking to combine mobile and cloud computing into a full range of services that will transform how applications of all types are built, deployed and managed. The degree to which Apple and IBM can collectively outflank Google, Microsoft and the rest of the vendor community in the enterprise remains to be seen. But in terms of complementary skill sets, the two companies certainly have the potential to create something that is much greater than the sum of its parts.