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Is Apple on its way to being a mobile enterprise player?

Tom Kaneshige | Aug. 6, 2014
Apple's decision to team up with IBM is a watershed moment for enterprise mobility. What that means exactly remains to be seen. The only fairly certain assumption is that the partnership will bring more iPhones and iPads into the enterprise.

While attending a tech conference last month, Michael DeFranco received word on his phone that Apple was joining forces with IBM to go after the enterprise. The CEO and founder of Lua, a mobile messaging service running on Android and iOS, stared at the text message in disbelief.

"I was shocked," DeFranco says.

What was going on? This didn't sound like Apple at all. DeFranco had recently read Steve Jobs, the best-selling biography by Walter Isaacson, and knew that Jobs' disdain for all things corporate had carried over to the last years of his life. Even under Tim Cook, Apple hadn't showed signs of truly warming to the enterprise.

Perhaps Cook was just biding his time, waiting for the right moment to transform Apple into an enterprise player, or at least a friend to businesses. What better way to do it than announce a partnership with the biggest technology signal caller for companies around the world? IBM is going to be an Apple reseller, and together they plan to build more than a hundred exclusive iOS apps serving vertical industries.

Is This the New Cook-Era Apple?
DeFranco's initial shock slowly turned to excitement.

"Maybe we're in a new age of Apple, where enemies like Apple and IBM can get together and collectively make a better experience for enterprises," DeFranco says. The challenges supporting the iPhone experience in the enterprise, he says, "might change now."

For starters, Apple can do a better job reacting to enterprise app and service providers needs, DeFranco says. For instance, Lua deploys software every seven days, often for its native iOS and Android apps. End-users on Android receive the software right away, whereas iOS users have to wait a week as the update winds its way through Apple's mysterious App Store approval process.

Enterprise messaging, though, should be ubiquitous -- not some users with features and others without. Lua's messaging service is based on DeFranco's work getting messages to and from first responders during the Katrina disaster. He quickly learned the power of a system that keeps everyone in the loop, regardless of the mobile device they're using. One of Lua's core values is to be platform agnostic.

That's why DeFranco hopes the Apple-IBM partnership means Apple will dedicate more resources into its enterprise app ecosystem and perhaps put an end to these kinds of frustrations, delays and secretive processes.

Will iPhones Now Be the CIO's Top Choice?
Exactly what Apple will do remains to be seen. The only fairly certain assumption is that the Apple-IBM partnership will bring more iPhones and iPads into the enterprise. Apple could replace BlackBerry and become the preferred device maker among CIOs. In turn, CIOs might scuttle bring-your-own-device, or BYOD, in favor of company-owned iPhones and iPads under choose-your-own-device, or CYOD.


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