IBM is to partner with Apple to sell iPhones and iPads loaded with applications geared at enterprise clients, the company has announced.
The announcement, just two days before IBM releases its second quarter earnings, comes as the company shifts its focus to software and services as its hardware unit continues to slump, and follows a string of mobile software acquisitions.
The company hopes software sales will contribute half of its total profit by 2015.
The company will release more than 100 apps targeting industry specific issues in retail, healthcare, banking, travel, transportation and telecommunications IBM said.
"We wanted to focus on creating an absolutely irresistible workflow and processes and a design of apps that can be used by every user in the organisation," Bridget van Kralingen, IBM's senior vice president of global business services told Reuters from Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California.
"We wanted to remove some of the existing barriers of mobile in enterprise," she said adding that chief information officers worry about security, utilising cloud and installing apps in mobile devices.
The partnership, which was six months in the making, will offer services geared at security, mobile device management and big data and analytics.
The company also plans to develop cloud services optimised for Apple's mobile operating system, iOS. The devices will operate through wireless carriers chosen by the client, she said.
BlackBerry shares were down 3% following the announcement.
The Canadian smartphone maker has increasingly targeted its secure software at businesses as part of an effort to turn the company around after losing ground to Apple's iPhone and Samsung’s mobile range.
Apple and Samsung have steadily expanded their share of the mobile enterprise market in recent years, mostly at Blackberry’s expense, while Microsoft Windows phones have made little headway.
Increasingly, Apple's expansion has been driven by employees bringing in their own devices and requesting corporate support, the so-called bring-your-own-device trend.
Hooking up with IBM may help address lingering concerns about smartphone software security and data privacy, in the form of a veteran partner that’s led in enterprise IT for decades.
"This deal is a very targeted attempt by Apple with the help from IBM to focus on the enterprise, corporate market which has really been the main business of Blackberry," said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer at Solaris Group in Bedford Hills, New York.
IBM shares were up 1.9% and Apple shares rose 1.3% after the bell following the announcement.
The apps will be supported through AppleCare, Apple's hardware warranty and customer service.