After sharing a not-so-subtle rivalry for the first decades of Apple's existence, the two storied tech firms' more recent histories have given way to a thawing of relations. Last year, Apple and IBM officially buried the hatchet when they announced a high-profile deal to collaborate on mobile enterprise software. And recently, this dynamic duo unveiled the latest round of apps. Let's dive in.
IBM's & Apple's 8 new apps
Earlier this week, Apple's MobileFirst website added a total of eight new enterprise applications. The new spate of apps leans decidedly toward the healthcare industry but also provide solutions for the industrial products, travel, insurance and retail sectors as well. Here's a quick review of the apps and their intended value adds, many of which sound oddly similar due to their equally brief descriptions on Apple's site.
- The Hospital RN iPhone app seeks to eliminate the need for nurses to have multiple pagers and other devices by aggregating patient records and other key information and notifications all in one place. Leveraging Apple's iBeacons, the app also enables healthcare providers to easily locate patients throughout a hospital or care facility.
- The Hospital Lead iPad app enables healthcare providers to streamline, assign, and prioritize tasks across the entire treatment staff, making providing faster care more efficient than in the past.
- Hospital Tech is an iPhone-specific app geared toward nurse technicians. The app organizes a nurse's daily workflow by aggregating patient location and health information, which allows nurse technicians to move more effectively throughout hospitals and deliver treatments with greater efficiency.
- Home RN for iPhone is geared toward nurses in the field. The app intends to make home visits by healthcare professionals more productive. The app enables nurses to push notifications, photos, and other documents to a patient's entire healthcare team to keep every member of treatment staff up to date. It also leverages Apple's mapping technology to help healthcare professionals locate patients' homes, pharmacies, urgent care facilities, and more they might need in the course of treatment
- The Rapid Handover iPad program, the only industrial products app in Apple's and IBM's portfolio thus far, aims to maximize coordination and relevant information dissemination between shifts of workers in industrial production settings.
- Ancillary Sale is an iPhone app aimed at flight attendants. The app coordinates a number of different customer service function like selling seat upgrades, food and beverages, and duty-free items during a flight with either the swipe of a credit card or Apple Pay.
- The Order Commit iPad app enables retailers to optimize their product mix by viewing key sales metrics, merchandize sell-through, and financial target tracking all in one screen, empowering merchants to make more informed decisions about their businesses.
- Risk Inspect is an insurance-specific iPad app that helps insurance agents catalog and assess claims more efficiently. The app also uses analytics to identify key risk areas such as claim histories and neighborhood crime statistics to allow field agents to provide highly robust reports more rapidly than in the past.
There are some pretty common themes running across these new apps. Thanks to the beauty of the cloud, these apps seek to compile as much relevant data into a single platform, which should help users act more quickly with more information.
What this means for Apple and IBM
Neither Apple nor IBM have commented on the exact financial terms of the deal. And in terms of being able to "back out" the benefit of the deal from reported numbers, Apple tends to be tight-lipped about breaking out more granular device-specific sales data, and IBM is equally unlikely to disclose enterprise app sales figures. However, the conceptual and anecdotal data points seem promising.
Reviews of the first round of 10 apps Apple and IBM released last year appear generally favorable. According to one analyst at researcher Gartner: "The three that I've seen were pretty impressive. ... They're very complex, with some drawing from three, four or more separate data sources." Better yet, the apps tend to address core issues faced by entire industries in our increasingly mobile world.
Another analyst remarked, "They deal with core problems, like employee efficiency or customer engagement, but I expect that they will be customizable [by IBM] for both other vertical sectors and individual companies." Seen this way, it seems these apps provide Apple and IBM with a lot of latitude for future modifications or industry-specific and company-specific extensions to more general issues businesses face today.
Viewed through this prism, the business opportunity starts to appear more robust. Connecting employees to the increasing amounts of disparate data our businesses will generate and empowering them to make useful decisions with that data is a generational business issue. As such, it certainly stands to reason that Apple and IBM improve their chances in profiting from this shift by establishing their presences in this space today, even if that falls short of dollars-and-cents projections.
In terms of direct benefits to each company, the deal is primarily a means of boosting Apple iPhone and iPads into the enterprise, an area in which it's long struggled to gain a foothold. And for IBM, the deal helps further its ongoing push into cloud-based software and analytics as Big Blue once again overhauls its product mix. All in, Apple and IBM have pledged to create around 100 enterprise apps over the life of the partnership. And with only 22 apps at present and a seemingly infinite number of business problems to tackle, the future appears promising for this once-unthinkable partnership.
Andrew Tonner owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and International Business Machines. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.