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Case Analysis: Partnership Success Story - Apple(Enterprise) X IBM(Enterprise)

Updated: Mar 22, 2022

Two is better than one, a common quote we have heard here and there. It might not always be true but for business, having a partnership is always better than struggling alone. A partnership is not only for attracting more capital, it can also help us to develop better and innovative products by combining the strengths of two products into one.

But it is not easy to achieve a successful partnership. According to the Business Performance Innovation Network report, 45% of the companies are unable to maintain long-term, successful relationships, 42% of partnerships are Not Well Leveraged and 67% of companies that agree to work together with Lack Formal Partnering Strategies resulting in a partnership failure rate of 43%.

This blog will discuss a successful alliance partnership between two enterprises IBM and Apple.

This blog will cover

  1. Partnership Companies Summary

  2. Background Story of this Partnership

  3. Why this Partnership was initiated

  4. Partnership Timeline

  5. Benefits of this partnership

  6. Challenges and Learning Points

  7. Our Thoughts on This Partnership

1.Partnership Companies Summary

  • Apple(Enterprise) X IBM(Enterprise) Strategic Partnership

United States based multinational technology company that specializes in consumer electronics, computer software, and online services. Apple is the world's largest technology company by revenue and, since January 2021, the world's most valuable company.

United States based a global technology company that provides hardware, software, cloud-based services and cognitive computing.

2.Background Story of this Partnership

Apple and IBM have a long history of collaboration together. In the 1980s Apple and IBM were rivals for personal computers (IBM Personal Computer and Apple Macintosh). In the early 1990s - Microsoft presented a bigger threat for Apple than IBM did.

It went from Apple dissing IBM publicly in 1981 with its “Welcome IBM. Seriously” ad to partnering up together to create better projects for the users. Apple and IBM’s Alliance partnership started first in 1991 when IBM was succeeding in the business market and Apple was desperate to crack that success down. Their first collaboration didn’t last long, ending a few years after it started. Despite their failed collaboration, Apple and IBM decided to partner up again in 2014 to work on Apple’s iPhone® and iPad®. Since then, they have worked together as partners with many different forms.

This partnership between Apple and IBM has come as a pleasant surprise for the mobile industry as a whole.

3.Why this Partnership was Initiated

The 2 giants made partnership based on combining their individual strengths, in order to reach a loftier goal as follow.


  • Strong Points

    • Strong Enterprise Customer Base

    • Has Big Data of Enterprise Customers

    • Strong Expertise of Enterprise Big Data and Backend Services

  • Weak Points

    • Undiversified market operations

    • Non-consumer product

    • Lack of experiences of easy to use user interface


  • Strong Points

    • Have Consumer Product

    • Have The world best easy to use UserInterface IOS Devices

    • Strong at Software Creation on IOS Devices

  • Weak Points

    • Weak Enterprise Customer Base

    • Lack of Big Data of Enterprise and Knowledge of Application of them

    • Device Sales started to drop in Consumer Sector and needed new target customer

4.Partnership Timeline

1991 - In April, Apple gave a demo to IBM engineers showing an Apple OS running on an IBM PS/2 Model 7 PC.

1991 -In October, the demo in April led to the Apple-IBM deal, in which two rivals agreed to work together. They signed a deal, Tanligent Project, to work together on the “Pink” operating system(the one Apple engineers created to run on IBM’s computers). The terms are that IBM would help Apple finish “Pink” and IBM would give Apple a license to use its PowerPC processor.

1995 - IBM’s project representative for the Taligent project left IBM 2 years after the Taligent project.

1998 - Following the resignation of IBM’s representative, the successor died, leading to the end of the Taligent project. After the partnership, the two companies followed different directions. IBM focused on PC Businesses while Apple produced tablets and phones.

2014- Apple and IBM partnered up again to bring IBM’s big data and analytics capabilities to iPhone® and iPad® The partnership aims to redefine the way work will get done, address key industry mobility challenges and spark true mobile-led business change. Throughout the partnership, Apple is to play a wider part on the device and design aspect, while IBM lifts much of the weight as the front-facing enterprise sales head. Unlike the previous partnership, the new collaboration has been going well.

5.Benefits of the partnership

The collaboration has brought the following benefits to both companies.

User-Centric Product

While IBM Enterprise services are not user friendly which were mostly designed for desktop based, they were possible to create User Centric Experiences focus with Apple Expertise.

Tackling the Competition

Google, Apple's main competitor, has regularly outperformed the market. The public is quite interested in its new line of smartphones, tablets, and even wearable devices. Some Microsoft Windows machines are also performing admirably. Of course, Apple has no reason to be concerned about its current market position. However, the remainder of the competitors may have played a role in the decision to form a joint venture with IBM.

Leading in Enterprise Sector

Apple sees IBM as the best company to complement its own expertise in device hardware and design. Besides, IBM has always enjoyed a position of power in enterprise. Partnering with IBM would help Apple emerge as a leading player in the enterprise sector. Apple is yet to make an impact on the industrial sector.

Increase in Sales

iPad sales have been showing a slight decline of late so this collaborative effort is definitely aimed at restoring the device's position at the top of the heap. iPads are the greatest choice for doing complex jobs, such as working with analytics apps, showing and analyzing data charts, and so on, because they are powerful and intuitive, as well as having a large enough display.

Wider Adoption of iOS in new Sector

The adoption of the iPad in the enterprise will encourage employees to increase their own use of iOS devices. Some who would otherwise have preferred Android or Windows Phone devices may make the move to iOS. Apple generally works as a lifestyle statement and wants its customers to feel more tech-savvy.

6.Challenges and Learning Points

Even Giants is hard to Success the Strategic Partnership

Apple and IBM were enemies before they partnered for the first time. Despite being rivals and competitors, they come together as partners to beat the other rivals and competitors. This partnership is a strategic partnership which creates the Value for each side. However, they need to work on and go through a lot for managing and executing this partnership to work out and succeed. Despite being giants which have everything money, technology, knowledge and people, it did not work out in the first time partnership in 1991 and they ended their first partnership relationship in 1998.

Recovering from Failure and Never Give up

As the previous partnership had failed and the two companies are known as frenemies, the public opinion had a lot to say when the new partnership was announced. The executives and involved parties had to prove that they can recover the failure and the new partnership is different from their past event. Although their partnership failed and they went separate ways, they never gave up on their partnership and now they are creating better and more innovative products for their users.

One Time Rivals can Become Partners

Apple’s battle with IBM is a thing of the past. The two frequently collaborate on enterprise applications.

Always User-Centric

Before strategic market position and sales, they came together to create User-Centric products which focus on what matters on end user experiences. That is the main key why this strategic partnership is successful. You can learn how you success the strategic partnership like this partnership in “Everything you need to know about Strategic Partnership

7.Our Thoughts on This Partnership

Apple and IBM collaboration is a great example of what an alliance partnership can bring to the companies. Although they are both big name enterprises, their focuses are different from each other. With this kind of collaboration, not only the companies are benefiting from it, also users who would like to try advanced technologies and softwares can now easily access them on Apple products. Meanwhile IBM is also able to keep its market proposition stronger than ever in the Enterprise Sector in the long term. They have overcome their differences and failures to get where they are today together. Thus, Apple and IBM partnership is chosen as our successful partnership to learn from.

To read more blogs like this follow on social media. is a “Partnership Incubator” and we help businesses find strategic partners and collaborate with them for increasing revenues, reducing operational costs, and supporting global business expansions. To know more about our company, visit our website


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