OAKLAND, Calif. – Apple and IBM, once the most unlikely of allies, on Wednesday announced the first fruits of a partnership aimed at developing new mobile software — and selling more mobile devices — to business customers.
One new app, developed jointly by the two companies, promises to help telecom service workers find their way to customer appointments in the field more quickly, using the GPS on an iPhone or iPad. Another would let flight attendants help passengers change their connecting reservations in mid-air.
All told, IBM and Apple announced 10 new business-oriented programs for Apple's popular iPhones and iPads, which are already used widely in commercial settings.
There are already a variety of apps available for restaurants, retailers and other businesses, but many are produced by smaller companies or independent developers. Despite a history of rivalry, the two tech giants announced a partnership over the summer to create a series of business-focused apps that combine IBM's data analytics prowess and knowledge of business requirements with Apple's skill at creating elegant, user-friendly products.
"This is actually not easy. It's not like playing Angry Birds," Bridget van Kralingen, an International Business Machines Corp. senior vice president, said in an interview. She boasted that the new products combine online data analytics and "industrial-strength security" in programs that resemble easier-to-use consumer apps.
While Apple Inc. is known primarily for consumer products, tech rivals like Google and even Facebook have been moving into the lucrative commercial market. And increasingly, analysts say, many businesses are trying to accommodate employees who want to use devices and software that resemble what they use at home.
IBM will take the lead in selling the new mobile software, van Kralingen said, but both companies say the partnership should also help Apple sell more devices to business customers. Apple Senior Vice President Philip Schiller also suggested it's not such a stretch for Apple to build business software. The number of companies using iPhones and iPads is "just astronomical, so we already are in the enterprise market," he said in an interview.
Executives said engineers from IBM, which is based in Armonk, New York, and Apple, which is headquartered in Cupertino, California, worked together on the new apps. They also include specialized programs for airline pilots, bankers, insurance agents, sales clerks and government case workers.