Ex-Apple exec Jean-Louis Gassée on why the IBM/Apple partnership is different

A lot has changed since Steve Jobs flipped off IBM 30 years ago.

A lot has changed since Steve Jobs flipped off IBM 30 years ago.

In a new blog post, famed ex-Apple executive Jean-Louise Gassée has given his thoughts on the recent IBM and Apple strategic alliance. And while Gassée notes that most strategic alliances don’t work, he thinks the Apple/IBM one will work out… in favor of Apple, that is.

The problem with strategic alliances, says Gassée, is that they tend to almost always be what he calls “clusterf*cks:”

Alliances generally don’t work because there’s no one really in charge, no one has the power to mete out reward and punishment, to say no, to change course. Often, the partners in an alliance are seen as a bunch of losers clinging to each other with the hope that there’s safety in numbers. It’s a crude but, unfortunately, not inaccurate caricature.

But in the case of Apple and IBM, Gassée thinks that Cupertino has made a great strategic move in getting the iPhones, iPads, and even Macs adopted in enterprise.

Another more immediate effect, across a wide range of enterprises, will be the corporate permission to use Apple devices. Recall the age-old mantra You Don’t Get Fired For Buying IBM, which later became DEC, then Microsoft, then Sun…and now Apple. Valley gossip has it that IBM issued an edict stating that Macs were to be supported internally within 30 days. Apparently, at some exec meetings, it’s MacBooks all around the conference room table — except for the lonely Excel jockey who needs to pivot tables.

On its part, Gassée says, IBM is trying to arrest its stagnating business by associating itself with Apple, a company that makes over 12 times as much money per employee as Big Blue. That may or may not work, but Apple will definitely benefit from the partnership… and sooner rather than later.

  • Ben Schmidt

    re: “Apparently, at some exec meetings, it’s MacBooks all around the conference room table — except for the lonely Excel jockey who needs to pivot tables.”

    Umm, can’t the Excel in MS Office 2011 for Mac also do pivot tables?

    • Stephen Plourde

      Yes, it most certainly can. Might be accessed differently but it’s there.

  • Windlasher

    Why is this idiot (Jean-Louise Gassée) all of a sudden being talked about / listened to? Apple would be a smoldering hole in the ground if he had had his way.

  • Andy Shorrock

    I think Apple will end up swallowing up IBM.

  • Adrian Khalifé Adoum

    IBM thinking ”If you can’t with your enemy… join him.”

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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