5 Reasons you should care about Apple and IBM’s partnership

Today Apple CEO Tim Cook and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty announced a partnership between the two companies, aimed at realizing the combined potential of mobility and big data for the enterprise. Only time will tell how meaningful this alliance will be for businesses—what does AppleCare for the enterprise look like exactly?—or how fruitful for Apple and IBM. But the fact that these two giants are joining forces is a major development that’s turning heads. Here are five reasons to take note.

1. More proof that User-centric IT is here.

While neither company used that exact term, that’s what this partnership is all about. By teaming up with Apple, IBM gets to bring a cool consumer sensibility to its enterprise offerings. And as Tim Cook told CNBC today, “Just like the consumers that write me every day and say what a difference we’ve made in their lives, we want to play a part in that in business.” But Apple and IBM are just the latest guests to arrive at this end-user appreciation party. No doubt they’ve been keeping an eye on small but mighty enterprise players like Box, Zendesk and Okta, which recently created a consortium to give a name—User-centric IT—and some attention to the movement.

2. Apple’s status as an enterprise tool is on the rise.

Just as Apple gives IBM some consumer street cred, IBM helps grant Apple legitimacy in the enterprise. More than 100,000 IBM employees and consultants will help bring iPhones and iPads to companies, from salespeople to software developers. Not that Apple was doing too bad on its own: most enterprise startups today understand the importance of making iOS an integral part of their product offering from the outset (including our team at Highfive—you can read more about that here). Still don’t believe that Apple is ready for prime time in the enterprise? At the very least, teaming up with IBM shields Apple from any criticism from the IT industry that it doesn’t understand what business needs.

3. Apple is clearly looking to the enterprise for growth.

The company never had a big presence in business until the iPhone and iPad began creeping into the workplace. Today, the iPhone is in 98% of Fortune 500 companies as Apple has been keen to mention lately, including at WWDC last month, where Apple software chief Craig Federighi touted new features for the enterprise such as its Device Enrollment Program. But as Cook told CNBC today, Apple’s penetration in the industry is still low, leaving lots of opportunity. And as growth slows in other historically lucrative areas (iTunes, iPhones), Apple may see a promising entree into the enterprise and use this partnership with IBM to accelerate that move.

4. Industry love for the IT department is on the way.

Whether or not your company works with IBM or Apple, the tech giants are shining a big light on IT that will attract the attention of the broader industry. And even more importantly, Rometty and Cook are framing their efforts around real business opportunities and potential gains in productivity, which should help forward-thinking IT leaders continue their transformation into Chief Productivity Officers for their companies. As Rometty told CNBC today, “This is all about unlocking mobility in the enterprise and value that hasn’t been there to date.”

Last but not least…

5. One time rivals can become partners.

Only 30 years ago, IBM and Apple were fierce competitors in the PC market. Fast forward to today: PCs are less and less relevant, and while Apple remains among the leaders in hardware where it matters (mobile), IBM has doubled down on enterprise software and services, making the two companies a highly complementary pair. It makes one wonder: as the tech landscape evolves, which companies, though strange bedfellows today, might align for mutual gain in the future? Any ideas? Share them in the comments.