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Apple and IBM Alliance Bears Software Fruit

Apple Unveils New Versions Of iPhone 6, Apple TVApple Unveils New Versions Of iPhone 6, Apple TV
Apple CEO Tim CookPhotograph by Stephen Lam — Getty Images

Apple and IBM’s partnership to create and sell mobile apps to businesses reached a new milestone, the technology giants said on Wednesday. The two companies have now built over 100 business apps, meeting a goal they set when first partnering last year.

The announce shows that Apple and IBM are making progress with their blockbuster alliance, which is intended to make their products more attractive to business customers. By working together, they hope to leverage each others expertise—Apple’s consumer know-how, and IBM’s deep ties to corporate IT departments—to be stronger than going at its alone.

Apple (AAPL) and IBM (IBM) released 48 apps in December alone that cover sectors like the auto, chemical, petroleum, retail, and healthcare industries. IBM said its portfolio of business apps now target 14 industries and 65 different job roles within them.

One new iPhone app targets the energy and utilities industry by allowing workers who inspect infrastructure for storm-related damages to quickly share information with their colleagues and customers. Another new iPad app for eldercare workers lets those professionals keep better tabs of their elderly clients who live alone by letting them more easily access patient files.

“We think there’s relevance there to retirement communities,” said Katharyn White, IBM’s vice president of the Apple and IBM partnership.

Only one of the newly released apps is built for the iPad Pro hybrid laptop and tablet, but White said IBM and Apple are developing more apps for the device that target financial planners, field maintenance workers, and the travel industry, among others.

Apple and IBM typically team up on designing the apps, while IBM developers write the code (written in Apple’s Swift programming language). IBM handles integrating the software for customers into their computer systems, White said. Customers pay monthly fees based on the number of users as well as an initial fee to wire up the new software to its internal databases and infrastructure.

The business apps were built to plug into IBM’s Watson data-crunching service to provide better data analysis and predictions. However, that connection to Watson costs extra.

IBM did not disclose the number of customers using the new mobile apps, but did say that Scandinavian Airlines, Vodafone Netherlands, and Asian soft drink bottler Coca-Cola Amatil are customers.

Software sales have been a weak point for IBM in recent quarters as the company transitions from selling software licenses to a so-called software-as-a-service model similar to companies like Salesforce. In IBM’s last quarterly earnings, sales of software declined 10% year over year to $5.1 billion.

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