Apple, IBM to give 5 million iPads to Japanese seniors

Apple, extending its partnership with IBM, will also collaborate on apps to improve the wellness and connectivity of elderly people, starting in Japan.

Joan E. Solsman Former Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
Expertise Streaming video, film, television and music; virtual, augmented and mixed reality; deep fakes and synthetic media; content moderation and misinformation online Credentials
  • Three Folio Eddie award wins: 2018 science & technology writing (Cartoon bunnies are hacking your brain), 2021 analysis (Deepfakes' election threat isn't what you'd think) and 2022 culture article (Apple's CODA Takes You Into an Inner World of Sign)
Joan E. Solsman
2 min read

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks at an April 30 event unveiling IBM apps for the elderly, with Japan Post CEO Taizo Nishimuro and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty. Joan E. Solsman/CNET

NEW YORK -- Apple and IBM are getting into the senior care business.

The two companies said Thursday that they plan to give 5 million iPads to seniors in Japan over the next five years. The iPads will come with special software designed to help the elderly manage health care and other needs.

"We will dramatically improve the lives of millions of people," Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook said an event here. "Sooner or later almost every country on the face on the earth will encounter this same issue."

Cook spoke alongside IBM CEO Ginni Rometty and Taizo Nishimuro, CEO of Japan Post, his partners in the initiative.

The move expands IBM and Apple's joint push to get more iPads into different areas, including business and health care. Though Apple's iPhone and Mac sales are strong, iPad shipments have slumped. The company earlier this week reported iPad sales of 12.6 million units, coming in below Wall Street's expectations and marking a fifth consecutive quarterly decline .

Apple reached a deal with IBM in July to help push Apple devices and iOS apps to businesses. IBM will optimize its cloud-computing services -- such as device management, security and analytics -- for iOS. The companies have already introduced the first bunches of apps for industries such as airlines, telecommunications, insurance, banking and government.

Japan Post -- which handles postal, banking and insurance services in the country -- will distribute the iPads as part of its Watch Over service. That offering sends workers to the homes of elderly customers to check in on their well-being for a monthly fee. Japan Post Group will pilot the iPad initiative in the second half of the year, aiming to reach 4 million to 5 million customers by 2020.

The iPads will be preloaded with custom apps designed for the elderly by IBM, such as software that provides reminders and alerts about medications, exercise and diet and help accessing community activities, grocery shopping and job matching.

The companies are starting the program in Japan because of its large population of aging citizens. The country's 33 million senior represent about 25 percent of the population, with that percentage expected to rise to 40 percent in the next 40 years.

But the executives, including Rometty and Nishimuro, noted that the issue is one facing countries across the globe. Cook said that should the pilot spread to the US, it likely would need to be administered by a collection of regional companies that IBM and Apple cobble together.

Cook has talked about the opportunities that would arise from the IBM deal. At the event, he cited the benefits of getting senior citizens to utilize an iPad to improve their lives, giving the example of Edith Kirkmeyer, a Santa Barbara woman who -- at 107 -- is the oldest known person with an iPad. "We'd like more people like Edith out there, that are living well, not just long."

Update, 6:30 a.m. PT: With distribution and other details about the partnership.