IBM deal won't have huge impact on Apple's financials -- analyst

Apple already has some big hooks in the enterprise market, so the deal with IBM won't do much to increase overall sales, says analyst Gene Munster.

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James Martin/CNET

Apple's deal with IBM to co-develop iOS apps for the enterprise crowd is "noteworthy," according to Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster. But the analyst doesn't see it as a huge revenue booster.

On Tuesday, IBM and Apple announced a deal in which the two companies will co-create exclusive industry-specific apps built on iOS. The two will develop more than 100 enterprise apps for the iPhone and iPad for such markets as retail, health care, banking, and travel. IBM will optimize certain cloud services for iOS and will even sell industry-specific iPhones and iPads.

The deal sounds like a win for Apple. So why is Munster less than enthused about it?

Apple's iOS has already penetrated 98 percent of Fortune 500 companies and 92 percent of Global 500 companies, Munster said in a research note published late Tuesday, referring to figures cited by Apple CEO Tim Cook. As a result, the analyst doesn't expect the deal to have a huge impact given that so many large corporations are already using iPhones.

"We believe overall that IBM will add incremental functionality for corporate customers, but is unlikely to be the make or break factor for a large corporation in utilizing iOS," Munster said. "We note that if half of the Fortune 500 were to each purchase an incremental 2,000 iPhones and 1,000 iPads above what they were planning to purchase as a result of the IBM deal, it would mean about a half a percent to CY15 (calendar year 2015) revenue."

Instead, Munster said he believes Apple's strength still rests in the consumer market and in the company's ability to innovate its hardware and its operating system.

Munster may be correct in that the deal might not provide a huge boost to Apple's overall revenue. But the agreement is much more than just a source of increased sales. It's a chance for Apple to truly stage a more powerful second front in the enterprise market, notably at a time when more individual consumers are opting for Android devices.

Other analysts seem more upbeat about the benefits to Apple, especially since IBM will take on most of the work in selling the iPhone, iPad, and the new iOS apps to business customers.

"The Apple IBM partnership is a landmark agreement," Forrester analyst Frank Gillett said in a statement. "Given IBM's market strength and coverage, this partnership gives Apple enterprise capabilities and credibility at one stroke."

Yes, Apple already has a strong foothold in the enterprise market. But with iOS hardware and software being sold as a bundle, the deal will still provide some financial value, according to Wells Fargo analyst Maynard Um.

"We believe that the initiative could potentially offer incremental upside to our (fiscal 2015) iPad and iPhone unit estimate (70.5 million and 165.6 million, respectively) with every 1 million incremental iPad units generating an additional $0.02 in (earnings per share) and every 1 million incremental iPhones $0.03, all else equal," Um said in a research note.

Still, the full financial impact is hard to predict at this point.

"We believe the magnitude of upside potential will be driven by IBM's ability to penetrate the market, which will be an unknown until the solutions come to market," Um added. "It is also unclear whether Apple will benefit from some residual revenue from IBM aside from the hardware sale."

But at least one analyst believes the agreement has the potential to give Apple a dominant role in the business market.

"There simply is no way of knowing how successful this partnership will be, but there is no doubt this represents a major pivot point for IBM (which historically has been quite aligned with Microsoft) and potentially a linchpin in Apple's strategy to finally unseat Microsoft in the enterprise computing market," Raymond James analyst Tavis McCourt said in a research note.

About the author

Journalist, software trainer, and Web developer Lance Whitney writes columns and reviews for CNET, Computer Shopper, Microsoft TechNet, and other technology sites. His first book, "Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time," was published by Wiley & Sons in November 2012.

 

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