Apple and IBM Launch First Wave of Codeveloped iOS Apps for the Enterprise

Roughly five months after announcing a global partnership that promised to bring IBM-powered business apps to Apple products, Apple and IBM have introduced 10 iOS mobile apps for the enterprise. The first in a series of industry-specific, cocreated solutions, the initial round of "third-generation apps" will overcome business challenges that previous apps have not, Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research, says.

Unlike first- and second-generation applications that did not take full advantage of native iOS capabilities and focused too much on replicating existing capabilities in a mobile environment, Apple and IBM's MobileFirst apps will provide cross-functional solutions to business problems by applying design thinking to identify, design, and deliver innovative solutions, according to Wang.

Created for the banking, financial services, government, insurance, retail, telecommunications, and travel industries, the apps will orchestrate entirely new experiences rather than replicating existing ones, and democratize data for business users and decision-makers. A Sales Assist app for the retail space, for example, enables associates to connect with customer profiles, make suggestions based on previous purchases and current selections, check inventory, locate items in-store, and ship out-of-store items, according to a statement issued by Apple and IBM.

Another example is the Retention app, which empowers agents with access to customers' reminders, recommendations, and tools for e-signatures. "Things like this don't exist," Wang says. "What makes these apps unique is that [Apple and IBM] are promising that they'll be 80 percent ready, right out of the box. There will still be some customization required, but they'll get users much closer to where they want to be than existing industry-specific apps have gotten them in the past," he adds. So far, companies including Citibank, Spring, and Air Canada are using the new solutions.

The apps will also more effectively capitalize on native iOS features, including the microphone, GPS, and camera capabilities, and will create frictionless experiences that simplify data integration and establish more continuity across the enterprise as users toggle between devices.

"Working together to leverage their respective strengths in design and enterprise business requirements, Apple and IBM have created a series of industry-specific mobile applications, each designed with a purposeful business outcome in mind," Alan Lepofsky, principal analyst at Constellation Research, told CRM in an email. "This partnership exemplifies how mobile is not just about the device being used, but rather updating or even reinventing the way people work," he added.

In addition to rolling out the apps, Apple and IBM's partnership involves IBM optimizing its cloud services for iOS and bundling Apple products with its software. On Apple's part, the company is customizing AppleCare for IBM customers and offering on-site support from IBM employees. Together, the companies also plan to introduce about 100 more applications over the next two years.

"This partnership is going to be big," Wang says. "There's definitely a lot more we can expect."

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