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Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols: Who should really worry about Apple/IBM? Microsoft

Sure, the enterprise push by Apple and IBM should worry the Android camp and BlackBerry. But Microsoft is the company with the most to lose.

July 16, 2014 11:09 PM ET

Computerworld - So Apple and IBM are hooking up. It's a match made in enterprise heaven, bringing together BYOD favorites the iPhone and the iPad with enterprise apps and cloud services from IBM. It's a win for Apple, which finally gets some serious business software chops, and for IBM, which gets device sex appeal.

It may be a good deal for IT as well. And then there are the losers.

Android devices are now more likely to come up short in enterprise evaluations. And this deal is just another kick in the keypad for BlackBerry, once the king of the mobile enterprise. Those days are long gone, and, honestly, I'm surprised BlackBerry has made it this far. This deal could spell the end.

But the company that should really be spooked by this deal is Microsoft.

Charles King of Pund-IT suggested that the deal would "hurt Microsoft in particular" because "the users that Apple and IBM will be going after with this deal are exactly in the cross-hairs that Microsoft has been going after in the last few years with Windows Phone."

That's not the half of it.

First, Microsoft's been trying to turn itself into a business services company. Yes, I know, when you think "Microsoft," the first product you think of is Windows. That's old news now.

Don't believe me? Take a look at the memo that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella sent out earlier this month. Windows is given short shift. This is not Bill Gates or Steve Ballmer's "Nothing is more important at Microsoft than Windows" Microsoft.

Nadella's focus is a "mobile-first, cloud-first" strategy. And where will Apple and IBM be focusing their attention? Why, on mobile devices backed with cloud services.

Yeah, that looks like a head-on collision is just down the road. Who's going to walk away from that crash? Some people are arguing that Microsoft is in a better position because it isn't catering to a single family of devices. Some analysts, such as Patrick Moorhead, of Moor Insights & Strategy, and Ross Rubin, of Reticle Research, believe that the Apple/IBM powerhouse will have very little effect on Microsoft. I, and a few million iPhone and iPad, users beg to differ.

What I find especially amusing is that Moorhead argues that Microsoft offers businesses a better deal because "Microsoft's mobile strategy [supports] Windows, Android and iOS." It's amusing because Microsoft has barely shed its "Windows or bust!" mindset. It's only just started supporting multiple platforms. Are CIOs going to forget all those years of Windows-first history and buy into this new multiplatform vision? I doubt it. Are they more likely to say, "Our users love Apple's iGadgets, and IBM is a proven enterprise power"? I think so.

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