IBM and Apple: ‘It’s Complicated’ for Retail

New York -- Greg Buzek, president of IHL, which tracks mobile spending and forecasts for the retail and hospitality markets, offers analysis on the recently announced IBM-Apple partnership:
 
If IBM and Apple for retail were people on Facebook right now, the relationship status would say “It’s complicated."

There is no doubt that this is a deal that provides great synergies for both companies. Apple gets a dedicated top notch sales- and service-team as well as a future of truly enterprise hardened software for their devices. IBM gains a fresh revenue opportunities in many areas of their company in the tremendously growing enterprise mobile software and services space.

The part that’s complicated is in retail. Basically, there are three questions that are unanswered and add to the “It’s complicated” relationship status:

1. Does IBM's background in transaction processing, loyalty, big data, cloud, etc. make it an ideal platform for an Apple payments platform based on iTunes? Certainly it could — no one processes more high speed retail transactions worldwide than IBM software and middleware. An iWatch or iPayment platform, particularly for grocery and discounters where the move for self-checkout is more towards consumers scanning and bagging with their phones, could be a big deal.

2. Does the remaining IBM retail group begin offering a mobile POS platform that is separate and competitive to the Toshiba Global Commerce platforms (formally IBM Retail Store Solutions) being offered today? Or is the iPad simply going to be an option for both or IBM Global Services play?

3. Will retailers really support three different platforms (traditional POS, Toshiba Mobile, Apple Mobile) at the store level for POS activities? It’s doubtful. IBM may have just cut off the legs of the Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions (TGCS) relationship in general merchandise retailers.

These are not reasons for IBM and Apple not to do the deal. It makes tremendous sense overall. But the agreement has certainly complicated the lives of those who make their livelihood in retail for IBM/TGCS and their customers.

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