Apple and IBM form apps and sales partnership

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By Leo Kelion, BBC | July 15th, 2014

Apple and IBM have announced a business partnership that will see the two firms co-develop business-centric apps for iPhones and iPads.

In addition, IBM will start selling business clients Apple's mobile devices pre-installed with the new software.

The two firms were one-time rivals, with Apple's 1984 advert depicting itself as an upstart challenging what was a dominant IBM.

One expert said it was too soon to know how significant the deal would be.

"It's hard to be sure without more details," said Ken Dulaney, an analyst at the tech consultancy Gartner.

"Enterprises need special features to protect their applications and the associated data. Our understanding is that IBM now has special access rights to certain security features on the devices that others will not have access to.

"This permits IBM to offer applications and services through Apple devices that behave more like the software businesses have long built on Windows platforms.

"But unknown things include what apps will be produced and what is the financial arrangement between the firms."

Co-developed apps

The firms' press release provides limited detail about what the first "IBM MobileFirst Platform for iOS" apps will do, beyond saying they would draw on IBM's expertise at analysing large amounts of information to help "retail, healthcare, banking, travel and transportation, telecommunications and insurance" among other industries make efficiency gains and take advantage of the cloud.

Microsoft's Satya Nadella recently detailed how he aims to refocus Microsoft's product line

It does, however, mark a fresh attempt by Apple to take advantage of Blackberry's decline and an appetite from the business world for an alternative to Microsoft's products.

However, last week Microsoft's chief executive, Satya Nadella released a memo in which he also promised to "reinvent productivity to empower ever person and every organisation on the planet to do more and achieve more" with his firm's own set of cloud-based products.

Although the Apple-IBM announcement promises more than 100 new "solutions" as a result of the deal, it will not be the first time IBM has released products for iOS.

The company already offers social network, email, and chat software for the platform among other programs. It has also released apps for devices running Google's rival Android operating system.

Apple shares rose by about 1.5% in after-hours trade, while IBM was up 1.8% following the announcement.