IBM-Apple deal reaches key milestone with 100th enterprise app

Competitors may find it hard to match this pace, one analyst suggests

When IBM and Apple forged their partnership last year to bring new mobile apps to the corporate world, their promise of bringing 100 such apps to market by the end of 2015 was widely considered an ambitious goal. Sure enough, though, it now looks like they've hit their target right on schedule.

IBM has delivered more than 100 IBM MobileFirst for iOS apps through the partnership, it announced Wednesday, each combining its big-data and analytics capabilities with Apple's user experience.

The apps released so far span 14 industries and 65 professions, including consumer products, automotive, financial services, retail, healthcare, travel and transportation, and chemicals and petroleum. Forty-eight brand-new apps have made their debut this month.

"Today's announcement proves that IBM and Apple are successfully driving their partnership forward," said Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT.

Not only have the companies surpassed their 100-app goal, but "what is also notable is the sheer variety of business cases those solutions cover," King added. "I expect that development pace to continue or even accelerate as IBM and Apple continue to collaborate, and MobileFirst developers gain further experience."

Many future apps in the MobileFirst for iOS series will incorporate the cognitive capabilities of Watson, IBM said, enabling them to continuously learn about the needs of employees and customers over time.

IBM is also now working on enterprise apps for the iPad Pro that take advantage of the device’s expanded power, performance and larger screen size along with iOS 9's multitasking features to allow professionals to work in two apps side-by-side at the same time, it said. Apps with support for Apple Pencil, meanwhile, will offer new precision and functionality for tasks such as logging transactions or annotating maintenance logs.

Overall, the result should be good news for corporate users, particularly those who recognize how discrete, task-specific apps can enhance worker and organizational efficiencies, King said.

Looking ahead, the success of the IBM-Apple partnership has also "thrown down a gauntlet of sorts to competitors" in the mobile business computing space, King suggested. "IBM and Apple certainly aren't alone in their ambitions for this market, but this announcement suggests that the pair are setting a pace that other vendors may find difficult to emulate, let alone surpass."

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