Anyone that knows much about Apple or Steve Jobs knows that Apple and IBM have never been best friends. The two companies were fierce competitors in the 80s, when they were the two front runners in the PC industry. The animosity extended beyond marketplace competition, too. Steve Jobs was very vocal about his dislike of IBM, although, he didn’t always need words to express his feelings on the matter.
Overt demonstrations of this nature weren’t just personal, either. Apple’s targeting of IBM also extended into official marketing. Apple has always been very combative in its advertising, and one of the most famous Apple commercials targeted IBM directly, and even compared the competing company to an Orwellian Big Brother.”
Although, over the years, the relationship between the two companies has lost a lot of the animosity, but that is mostly attributed to the fact that they don’t directly compete as much as they used to. IBM sold its notebook division to Lenovo and focused much more on enterprise services, while Apple went on to dominate the consumer market.
In fact, the role of each company in the industry has transformed to the point where they actually have a lot to offer each other. IBM sells and supports enterprise equipment and services and Apple devices are used in 90% of enterprise, so the partnership only makes sense.
Some may say that Steve Jobs would be rolling in his grave about now (see above photo), but Jobs might have even seen this coming. Jobs once described the difference between Apple and IBM by saying
IBM has the best process people in the world. They just forgot about the content. And that happened a little bit at Apple, too. We had a lot of people who were great at management process. They just didn’t have a clue about the content. In my career, I found that the best people are the ones that really understand the content.
The same is very true today. IBM has found massive success in the enterprise due to a focus on process. IBM is a world leader in business process management, data storage and security, and enterprise support for both hardware and software. The company has basically established itself as a go-to one stop shop for anything enterprise IT related.
Meanwhile, Apple has focused almost solely on the consumer and consumer content, and excelled at it. Apple is a major leader for applications and hardware, but very few of these services target any large scale deployment. Apple IDs, for example, are a personal ID with no corporate alternative, making enterprise IT management of Apple devices somewhat troublesome. Despite the wide adoption of Apple devices in Enterprise, the devices have surprisingly little to offer most companies.
This partnership brings together the best of both worlds of both the “processes” and the “content” that Steve Jobs mentioned as components of success. Although many corporations may not start seeing the benefits of this partnership for many months, it is a massive pairing that will benefit both companies as well as their customers.