iOS developers poised to win big in Apple-IBM deal

Alliance gets iPads in hands of IBM-backed businesses -- and gives enterprise-ready iOS developers a big new market

Mobile developers with knowledge of Objective-C and Apple's fledgling Swift language could be the big winners in the company's newly announced partnership with IBM.

That alliance has IBM firmly endorsing the iPad, with Big Blue reselling Apple's popular tablet device preconfigured with enterprise apps for vertical industries. More iPads will end up at large IBM shops, opening up new markets for iOS application builders.

Some -- but not all -- iOS developers could have a major opportunity to earn lots of income in the enterprise space, said iOS application developer Christopher Allen, CTO of software developer "Working at an enterprise level often requires 'full stack' skills, from UX to client engineering and on through to a scalable back end, which is the kind of experience the more indie app developers don't have," he noted. "Those teams that have this broader experience will do well."

Apple's Swift development language, introduced in early June, could get a big shot in the arm thanks to the partnership. "It certainly looks like IBM will be retraining a bunch of its consultants in Swift -- that might push a few of its customers down that direction too -- which would be a long-term win for Apple," said Forrester analyst Jeffrey Hammond.

Allen, who has studied Swift, does not see the language as specifically geared toward business apps, although it does offer security benefits. Security of course, is a principal concern of enterprises. "There is nothing specific to Swift for business. It's an alternative to Objective-C that is more 'modern' and thus can address some of the common errors a programmer can make while coding."

Swift, however, was designed for safety, with variables that have to be initialized before use; arrays and integers that are checked for overflow; and automatic memory management. "Thus, it would be much less likely that a bug like Heartbleed would happen with Swift." The language also can be much faster than Objective-C, but it's very much still in development, Allen stressed.

IBM's BlueMix cloud platform could be a target of iOS developers, analysts said. "From a developer viewpoint, the BlueMix platform looks more attractive now to get business apps onto iOS devices," said analyst Michael Azoff of Ovum. "Security is the prime hurdle, and the partnership has the potential to address these concerns." Azoff sees the deal a good one for both companies. "Apple gets further into the enterprise with the availability of IBM services via new apps while IBM gets its services channeled via the iconic Apple devices."

On the jobs front, Shravan Goli, president of IT jobs website noted that the IBM-Apple partnership creates an opportunity for enterprise-minded iOS developers. "The key thing here is that with the push toward more enterprise applications and services, it certainly increases the proliferation of iOS in a bigger way, and that leads to additional demand for the relevant skills," said Goli.

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Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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