I spoke with IBM’s Vice President for the IBM/Apple Partnership, Kathryn White, to get a little more background on news Apple and IBM are extending their partnership to put business intelligence across the digital ecosystem, from the artificial smarts of Watson to augmented cleverness strapped to any Apple Watch user’s wrist. The partners are in this for the long game.
A new beginning
IBM yesterday confirmed it has delivered over 100 IBM MobileFirst for iOS apps in partnership with Apple. CCS Insight’s Nick McQuire calls the Apple/IBM partnership “lethal," saying: “IBM MobileFirst for iOS has the potential to radically reshape the direction of enterprise computing in the coming years.”
These apps digitally transform the work of 14 industries and 65 professions and the partners will offer similar products to new markets, including “consumer products, automotive, aging and chemicals and petroleum” in 2016.
Regular readers already know I believe Apple is in a fantastic position to build its enterprise business as the digital transformation changes the way every industry, government or anyone else lives and connects today. Connected solutions are even transforming the ancient occupation of agriculture.
IBM explains it
I asked White for a little more of the reality behind the press release. I’ve published her responses more or less verbatim below:
Q: How does IBM characterize response to MobileFirst for iOS so far?
“This will sound a little rote, but the response from clients has been overwhelmingly positive,” White explains. “IBM and Apple saw an opportunity to bring mobility to the enterprise in a way that would replicate the mobile experiences we enjoy as consumers. We knew there was a major need here, but the response has thrilled even us. The way we develop the apps -- bringing in real employees and finding out what their biggest challenges are on the job and then building an app that addresses those exact use cases -- is truly unique. Recently we've seen a lot of excitement from clients as we've begun to share how the apps can be made to incorporate Watson.”
Q: How can Watson help provide actionable insights to real world problems through MobileFirst for iOS? An example or a prediction of how it could be used would be great here!
“Integrating the IBM MobileFirst for iOS apps with Watson will allow them to predict customer trends and improve decision-making. In a financial advisor app, for example, [we] could use Watson Analytics to visually show the advisor what's trending, what [the] market sentiment is and help them make decisions. With Watson, the app will get better and smarter over time.”
I (Jonny Evans) think that’s key, of course -- artificial intelligence as evidenced by Watson learns constantly and, in conjunction with big data analysis of unrelated informational stacks, can figure out how to apply real-world knowledge to less easily identified global trends in real time.
White shared a few ideas as to how such learning intelligence might be applied:
“For example…the Ancillary Sale app delivers predictive analytics to flight attendants, suggesting next-best actions like which beverage or upgrade option to recommend to a passenger. With Watson, the app could learn about a repeat passenger's preferences and make recommendations specific to them. That would take the airline's customer service to the next level.”
Q: Digital transformation goes beyond the digital customer experience, of course — as connected devices proliferate, how else might IBM’s analytics and enterprise support help us work, live and play?
“What our partnership with Apple has showed us is how vital it is to provide people a consumer-quality experience at work. We're seeing the evolution of mobility in the enterprise. It is beginning to mirror how we as consumers use mobile and vice versa -- simple, intuitive experiences are now connecting all of us to analytics and data to help us in everyday life. Consumers too want analytic-based insights. You may have seen IBM recently announced the Watson Trend App, which helps shoppers understand what is trending and why through the cognitive power of Watson.”
Coming to Apple Watch
White also took a moment to confirm the Apple IBM partnership will extend to the Apple Watch. “The majority of the made-for-business apps that IBM and Apple will make available will be extended to the Watch, provided they include tasks that can be completed in 15 seconds or less with one or two quick actions,” she explained.
“We are seeing great interest in the apps for the Apple Watch, and we continue to extend apps to the Watch that are tailored to meet the needs of specific professions, such as nurses or first-responders, and deliver timely information to their wrists.”
IBM’s Interactive Experience design agency is helping clients including Japan Airlines and Citi develop apps for Apple Watch, she said.
iPad Pro, too
Hot on the heels of last week’s Bloomberg news, White confirmed Apple’s largest existing iOS product, the iPad Pro, is also in the plan:
“IBM is currently developing enterprise apps that take advantage of the unique features of iPad Pro,” she explained. “For example, the apps will allow users to multi-task on two screens with two different apps at the same time. The new Design at Home app will use the Apple Pencil to easily drag and drop home goods into a virtual room so customers can better visualize room layout and design.”
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