Apple, IBM deliver first fruits of mobile business app collaboration

MobileFirst for iOS apps use IBM's analytics and Apple's design polish to resolve pain points in telecom, banking, retail, travel businesses

apple and ibm announce global partnership
Paul Sakuma/Feature Photo Service for IBM

Last summer, when IBM and Apple announced they'd be pairing up to deliver mobile apps dedicated to verticals and enterprise settings, it was easy to see how IBM, Apple, software developers, and enterprises all stood to win. But details about the apps remained elusive until now.

Both IBM and Apple have now described the first 10 apps born of their collaboration, which are being offered under the banner IBM MobileFirst for iOS. Designed for industries like travel, banking, insurance, government, telecom, and retail, the apps aren't mere reworkings of off-the-shelf software found in the App Store, but are custom-designed for solving problems in their target industries.

As Phil Buckellew, vice president of IBM Enterprise Mobile put it, the apps were all designed to meet two key needs: they had to "address an industry pain point" and be "powered by analytics." The former is easy enough; the latter, he claimed, was what takes the endeavor "to the next level."

In a post on IBM's Smarter Planet blog, Bridget van Kralingen, senior VP at IBM Global Business Services, went into further detail about the kinds of next-level work the companies have in mind. The Expert Tech app, for telecom, is designed for telecom field technicians and is meant to do everything from figuring out faster routes to the next service call to using FaceTime to loop in other field technicians when diagnosing a problem.

ibm mobilefirst for ios Apple/IBM

The Expert Tech app, offered as part of the IBM's MobileFirst for iOS app lineup. Field technicans for telecoms can plan service routes, contact other technicians via FaceTime, and ensure supplies are available to complete a given work order.

With other apps in the collection, "brick-and-mortar retailers can expedite shipping by turning their existing stores into mini-warehouses and product pickup depots," van Kralingen wrote. "[Or] flight attendant[s] can rebook you at 30,000 feet when they can see that you're in danger of missing a connection."

Some of the apps in the collection embody the "systems of insight" concept that IBM applies to its latest generation of data-powered services. Case Advice, for government, "adjusts case priorities based on real-time analytics-driven insights, and assesses risk based on predictive analysis," and Trusted Advice, for banking, "allows advisors to access and manage client portfolios, gain insight from powerful predictive analytics ... with full ability to test recommendations with sophisticated modeling tools all the way to complete, secure transactions."

"Powered by analytics," as Buckellew put it, is clearly IBM's domain, with most of its big news concerning new analytics products and prominently featuring its Watson machine-learning service. "Addressing pain points"  is a collaboration between IBM and Apple, with IBM supplying its insights into industry difficulties and Apple supplying not only the iOS environment but the needed application-design expertise.

Another area where the companies are pairing up is support for MobileFirst. Apple's AppleCare for Enterprise support system will be used to supply 24/7 aid for IT departments and users, while IBM will provide on-site care.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.