What I like about the new alliance between IBM and Apple for secure mobile apps is that it’s customer-driven. This is a great example of a customer ecosystem. IBM has historically been pretty good at recognizing and acknowledging their customers’ behaviors and either acquiring, or making strong alliances with, the suppliers that IBM customers favor. I often refer to this behavior as “running around in front of the customer parade.” A true customer ecosystem is not a marketing alliance that is ginned up by CEOs and marketing execs; it is a business network that is organically generated by customers’ behaviors as they go about their business of getting things done.
IBM’s business customers, starting with corporate CEOs and CIOs, gravitated to Apple iPads almost immediately. One of our clients—the CIO of a financial services firm—reported several years ago that he was pleasantly surprised that every single member of the CIO round table he participated in was taking notes on his/her iPad. In the past, corporate CIOs were often the last to adopt new technology. Most were slow to start using PCs in the 1980s, considering them “toys.” But iPads caught on quickly because CEOs, high-powered financial traders, and top salespeople—the folks who drive a company’s strategy and bring in the big bucks—began using iPads. That meant that CIOs quickly needed to ensure the security of the information and apps these top execs were using—both for work and for personal use.
So, the IBM/Apple alliance around mobile apps is a great victory for enterprise customers. They voted with their feet. Their suppliers (Apple and IBM) responded by forming an alliance to formalize the ecosystem that was already taking shape.