So what does the Apple-IBM partnership mean for Microsoft, which has a strong presence in the enterprise but is still battling to get its smartphones and tablets into the hands of more business users?
Not all that much, according to some analysts.
“I’m not sure it’s going to wind up having any explicit effect,” said Wes Miller, an analyst with independent research firm Directions on Microsoft, who says he sees the partnership simply as a matter of “a company that doesn’t have a strong enterprise focus, and one that does, working together to harmonize the interest of both.”
Where the partnership might affect Microsoft is in the company’s aspirations to grow the number of users for its Windows Phone and Windows tablets, including the Surface.
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“I definitely don’t think it’s good news for the tablet future for Microsoft,” Miller said, as IBM will now have an incentive to recommend Apple’s devices, rather than Microsoft’s or another company’s, when it provides services to its customers.
But that’s offset by the simple fact that IBM isn’t the only consultancy that businesses use, he added.
Michael Cherry, also an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, said a lot will depend on what these industry-specific apps will look like — how good they are and how well IBM integrates them into its management tools.
If the apps are very good, then “Microsoft is going to eventually have to come up with something that competes with those applications,” Cherry said. “The dilemma for Microsoft then is: Do you produce those apps for Surface first or iOS first?”
Trip Chowdhry, an analyst with Global Equities Research, wonders if the timing of the announcement, coming a few days before IBM and Apple each make their quarterly earnings announcement, might indicate that the companies have not reached their revenue expectations.
He believes the companies announced the partnerships “from a position of mutual weakness,” saying that cloud service providers such as Microsoft, Amazon and Google have been logging strong enterprise wins since March.
Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @janettu.