IBM Can Help Apple’s Trust Issues but Blackberry Could Steal Share

The nude celeb hacking scandal suggests that Apple could use IBM’s help.
Posted September 3, 2014
By

Rob Enderle


Apple can’t be trusted.  With the release of nude pictures of celebrities this is likely the same conclusion many of you are reaching today.  In the end this is probably where IBM can provide the greatest value in their new partnership with Apple  because IBM understands that, with an Enterprise, trust is likely the most important value a vendor can provide.  

But Apple doesn’t understand that, recreated under the paranoid vision of one of its founders, Apple doesn’t really trust anyone and constantly sees reinforcement for this belief in the massive and increasing number of leaks that surround the company.  This is what makes the IBM Partnership critical to Apple’s expansion efforts – IBM knows what must be done. The question is whether Apple will trust them enough to help.  

At the Core of Apple’s Problem

Apple’s leading feature is ease of use and unfortunately this often moves contrary to the needs of the enterprise to secure communications platforms.  But you can see in their response to the security breach that one of the practices Apple uses is to push the blame back on the customer for problems. (Apple denies that the breach was the result of a flaw in iCloud.) Yes the celebrities that had their pictures shared did stupid things but that was largely because Apple defaulted off protections that could have protected them like dual factor authentication and did make them aware of the risk of using trivial passwords.

As Wired reports, iPhones are hacked regularly with private pictures and documents shared widely on the web by people without authority to view them. 

Enterprise buyers expect a vendor to be up front with problems and while they are often disappointed these disappointments are generally a violation of policy not an execution of it. Apple protects its image and brand vigorously and won’t accept blame unless there is no other choice, even when it actually is at least partially their problem. 

Recall the Antennagate scandal.  Apple was adamant there was no problem, claimed other phones did the same thing, and if you held the phone properly – kind of like a well-trained maiden holds a teacup with her fingertips – the antenna worked fine. They then brought in IBM to fix the antenna, fired the executive responsible, and were sued in a class action and paid a settlement. 

So Apple’s core problem is they don’t accept blame easily, aggressively pass the blame to users/buyers, and don’t often fix problems unless sued.  That may work with consumers (well if they don’t sue you) but not with enterprise buyers, who don’t like having to sue vendors at all.     

IBM’s Ability to Help 

This is nearly polar opposite to how IBM approaches the Enterprise market.  They’ve learned the hard way to accept blame and avoid blaming IT publically, even if it’s largely IT’s mess to clean up. They track how long it takes from when a problem is identified to when it is fixed and wouldn’t think of blaming a problem with the design of a product on the user/customer. They share their plans and they do massive testing to make sure their offerings are secure, will integrate into a customer’s shop, and won’t embarrass the buyer, user, or decision maker. 

If IBM can overlay these practices through the Apple partnership, Apple will become a far more acceptable vendor through IBM then they are now. And if Apple learns from them they’ll likely be a better vendor for users as well.  

Blackberry’s Opportunity

Blackberry has a pretty significant opportunity to step in and both better secure iPhone customers and get high profile customers to come back to Blackberry for phones.  They are the only one of the smartphone vendors which has remained focused on security and their cross platform management and encryption tools now span data and voice, making them uniquely safe in this unsecure market.  Currently they are the only vendor aggressively looking at encrypting all of the communication in a smartphone, even voice. And if naked pictures of celebrities are valuable think what candid phone conversations would be worth?

Until and unless IBM can improve Apple’s relationship with IT and their overall approach to security Blackberry may be the safest harbor for those concerned with security.  

Wrapping Up:  Customer Loyalty Risk And Advice

Apple enjoys one of the highest customer loyalty scores in the industry but, unlike an increasing number of enterprise vendors, they don’t measure executives on this score.  They appear to take it for granted except when it comes to promoting products.  The downside to this approach is that they don’t protect their advocates and they don’t control them either, which is why things went sideways with the nude pictures this week.  

IBM is not nearly as good at creating loyalty as Apple but they are far better at protecting it, and IBM does measure its executives on customer loyalty.  If Apple can learn and get timely help from IBM the combination could be incredible for the enterprise.  If they can’t, Blackberry remains a more secure, more IT focused solution. And until the Apple problem is fixed you likely should move to or stay with Blackberry for secure communications so your secrets don’t become embarrassingly public.  

Many of the professionals I know have iPhones and Blackberries.  The iPhones are for fun, the Blackberries for work.  I wouldn’t advise putting nude pictures on either of them.  

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.




Tags: IBM, Apple, hacking, BlackBerry Apps


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