What's missing from Apple's big enterprise deal with IBM?

Apple and IBM get together to boost iOS in the enterprise. But there's one huge omission in the deal.

macbook pro

Apple and IBM have gotten together to announce a historic partnership that will combine Apple iOS devices and apps with IBM cloud services, big data and analytic capabilities. IBM’s massive enterprise salesforce will also put more than 100 of Big Blue’s vertical market apps, services and software on iPhones and iPads and sell them to enterprises. 

It’s a big deal between two former antagonists that will help cement Apple’s place in the enterprise and give IBM a much-needed mobile boost. It’s also a big challenge to Microsoft’s vision of Windows everywhere.

See also: How the Mac is invading the enterprise

But there’s one critical piece missing from the deal that may tend to undercut the deal’s importance for both Apple and Microsoft. The deal is all about iOS, it makes no mention of the Mac, even as Apple’s traditional computing platform makes inroads into the corporate market.

The missing Mac loses an opportunity

For Apple, leaving out the Mac means that this deal is not likely to be anywhere near as transformational as it could have been. While having IBM push iPhones and iPads in the enterprise will no doubt boost sales, the fact is that iOS devices already have a huge lead in the enterprise.

Blackberry is fading fast, Android is still up and coming, and Windows Phone hasn’t caught on in big numbers. So while the IBM deal should help Apple maintain its mobile dominance in the enterprise, it’s not going to open up a brand new market.

No threat to Microsoft’s home planet

At the same time, leaving the Mac out of the IBM/Apple partnership removes the pressure on Microsoft’s core Windows business. As long as Windows remains the desktop standard for corporate America, Microsoft will still be able to fund its war chest for assaults on the mobile market. A similar IBM/Apple alliance to push Macs into the enterprise would have been truly frightening for Microsoft. As it is, Redmond will have to fight a little harder to make itself relevant on mobile devices, but its home planet is not being threatened.

The big winner here seems to be IBM. For all its heft in the enterprise, IBM didn’t really have a mobile hardware play. With Apple, it gets to leverage the most popular, highest-margin mobile hardware available without spending billions to develop its own mobile devices. IBM suddenly starts to look a little cooler, a little more up to date, all while slipping its software deeper into more and more enterprises.

That is, as long as it doesn’t start slapping IBM logos on iPhones. That could kill the buzz pretty quickly.

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Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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