Apple currently owns the premium mobile consumer device market and is even the preferred premium BYOD mobile device in the enterprise. However, this doesn’t mean that enterprises have signed up to ditch their PCs or Macs. Apple knows this. Apple is on a long-term journey and is striking strategic agreements with enterprise players to create new and modern workstyles. On the heels of Apple’s IBM and Cisco Systems announcements, today Apple announced a partnership with SAP to bring a series of iOS native applications that leverage capabilities of the SAP HANA platform. SAP HANA is a sophisticated in-memory relational database management system that was partly built, bought, and integrated by SAP around 2013. SAP is under pressure to compete with mobile-first SaaS companies and, quite frankly, needed a lot of work on their user experience for millennials. The two companies say they will provide a series of cloud-based SDKs to allow developers to create native applications that combine capabilities of SAP HANA’s cloud platform with SAP S/4 HANA and iOS.
By moving SAP HANA’s capabilities to mobile end-points, developers can incorporate new functionality that was not available before. These include, but are not limited to enhanced security and identification with TouchID, alerts and notifications, location-based services, and additional ad-hoc communication services to help end-users to be more productive. This partnership could enable enterprise workers to have a more integrated and effective user experience through their mobile devices, especially those in data intensive industries such as field service, healthcare, transportation, and retail.
On the heels of the partnership with Apple, SAP announced a partnership with IBM to tie functionally between HANA’s cloud platform and IBM’s cognitive computing technology – also known as Watson. Cognitive computing is a computing model that involves data mining, machine learning, pattern recognition, artificial intelligence, and natural language processing to simulate how the human brain learns (see my article on the topic). This collaboration will initially focus on both hybrid and on-premise deployments of SAP HANA and IBM Power systems. This approach makes sense and capitalizes on shared strengths between the two companies.
I asked principal analyst Patrick Moorhead what he thought this mean for Windows. He said, “I don’t see this as SAP walking away from Windows or Windows 10 as a platform. Windows is on more large screen devices now than iOS and that wouldn’t be productive. But iOS is the preferred enterprise mobile OS. Additionally, for something like this announcement to be most efficient for developers, apps need to extend to wearables, Macs and PCs.”
The combination of these relationships could create a significant barrier to entry for SAP’s competition. IBM has already been announced, but where is Oracle or Salesforce.com? They of course have many iOS apps, but I don’t expect Apple to partner with everyone otherwise it’s not really partnering. This announcement shows again Apple’s persistence and goal of moving even more deeply into the enterprise. As these partnerships evolve, SAP and Apple must demonstrate early customer success to avoid losing competitive advantage. This is true even if Apple’s strategy is a long-term one. There have been way too many industry enterprise engagements and alliances that went nowhere, but then again, Apple doesn’t play like that, so I’m optimistic. There is no doubt SAP’s HANA strategy is a key, if not the fulcrum, of their long-term prosperity and smart, targeted partnerships will be the key to executing against that strategy.