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Apple-IBM venture offers up first iOS apps

With the initial slate of 10 apps, and more on the way, Apple aims to ride the wave of iPhones and iPads ever deeper into the corporate world.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
3 min read

With the new IBM MobileFirst for iOS apps, such as Passenger+ (pictured), Apple aims to fly deeper into corporate kingdoms. Apple/IBM

The partnership between Apple and IBM is starting to bear fruit.

The companies, which in July struck a deal to deliver mobile apps to big businesses, on Wednesday released 10 apps as part of the IBM MobileFirst for iOS product line. The apps span industries including airlines, telecommunications, insurance, banking and government, and are all designed for corporate customers.

Plan Flight, for instance, is designed for pilots to manage their in-flight activities to help airlines save costs, while Passenger+ is intended to help flight crews offer personalized services to passengers in-flight. Another, called Retention, targets the insurance industry to help agents keep top customers in the fold. The government-focused apps focus on helping caseworkers and on crime prevention.

Companies among the initial wave of adopters are Citi, Air Canada, Sprint and Banorte.

In time, the Apple-IBM venture aims to create over 100 vertical-focused enterprise apps built for the iPhone and iPad. In addition, IBM's cloud services will be optimized for iOS, and the giant enterprise-focused company will sell Apple products bundled with the software to companies around the globe. Apple's support platform, AppleCare, will also be tailored for IBM customers and include on-site support from IBM employees.

The move was a surprising, but also exceedingly important, one for Apple. Over the last few years, Apple has talked up the increasing use of its products in the corporate world. With each quarterly earnings call, the company's executives have shared how many Fortune 500 companies have so far adopted or tested iOS products. As of this writing, nearly all are at least testing the company's products to see if they make sense for corporate use.

"This is a big step for iPhone and iPad in the enterprise," said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, in a statement. "The business world has gone mobile."

The shift, referred to as BYOD (for "bring your own device"), began as a grass-roots movement among corporate employees who were increasingly using smartphones and tablets in their personal lives and wanted the same convenience in their professional spheres.

For IBM, the deal with Apple provides access to customers who otherwise might not be using its products and services. It also can capitalize on Apple's cool factor -- something somewhat lacking historically from the IBM brand.

The collaboration led to "beautiful, elegant, smart apps, which also have the chops for serious business," said Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president at IBM Global Business Services.

Among the early customers, Air Canada said that the Plan Flight app will help take the guesswork out of its operations.

"Today, dispatchers and pilots determine how much extra fuel is loaded onto a plane based largely on current factors and their individual judgements," Jim Tabor, vice president of system operations control at Air Canada, said in a statement. Plan Flight, he continued, will deliver "recommendations based on several variables, including weather conditions, anticipated taxi time and historical data to determine the optimal amount of fuel for each flight."

Apple declined to comment beyond its joint press release with IBM.