Apple and IBM's enterprise mobility alliance is an odd pairing, but could shake up the market and threaten Microsoft and Google, said Gartner VP Van Baker.
The companies' new enterprise mobility partnership is a "strange marriage, but one with a lot of potential," according to Baker, also research director for Gartner's mobile and client computing services.
Earlier this month, the two companies announced they have teamed up to combine their relative strengths for mobile solutions aimed at the corporate IT market.
The alliance will involve the creation of over 100 mobile apps targeting specific enterprise verticals, combining Apple's devices and app expertise with IBM's big data, integration and security capabilities.
Baker said the announcement took him by surprise. On the one hand, the partnership makes sense because "the two companies are very complementary to each other [and] there's no real overlap where they're competing."
But on the other hand, Baker noted that it's hard to think of two companies that have more different corporate cultures than Apple and IBM.
A strange marriage
"Apple is extraordinarily secretive and does not share future product plans or anything with any of their customers," he said. "IBM is the antithesis of that. They work with enterprises, share roadmaps [and more details of their future plans.]"
The success of this partnership will hinge in part on how well the two companies are able to work together, said Baker.
The chances of success are hard to gauge because Apple and IBM have shared few details about the apps in development. "We asked them specifically to give us a list of the apps and they wouldn't [provide one]," Baker said.
"If you take away the applications then this is just a distribution agreement....and there's nothing extraordinary about that, said the Gartner VP. "Until we see what kind of apps they deliver and how significant they are, it's tough to judge how important this agreement is going to be."
But considering IBM's proven track record in the enterprise and the popularity of Apple devices in the corporate world, the partnership has the potential to shake up the enterprise mobility market.
According to Baker, Microsoft and Google should be worried.
Google is just beginning to gain some enterprise traction for Android, he said. Microsoft is trying hard to build support for their devices in the enterprise space, and its major advantage is enterprise-friendly platforms like Azure. Now that IBM with its proven enterprise capabilities is throwing its weight behind Apple, this progress has been negated.
Microsoft could respond in one of two ways, Baker said. "On the one hand, you could argue that Microsoft needs to get more aggressive in the device space, or you could argue that Microsoft needs to get less aggressive in the device space and recruit more partners, so they've got more of an array of devices to promote to the enterprise," he said.
Apple partnering with IBM doesn't mean its enterprise strategy has changed, said Baker. "I think they believe that a partnership with IBM will help them deliver better services for their products [and] breakthrough mobile applications for the enterprises."