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Apple and IBM partnership delivers more than 100 business-focused apps

Ever since it was announced in mid-2014, the Apple and IBM partnership, IBM MobileFirst for iOS, has been trying to woo business customers with a range of apps made just for them.

On Wednesday, the two companies announced the initiative had been fruitful, producing more than 100 enterprise-focused apps that work across iPads and iPhones. Not available to just anyone on the App Store, these products are tailor-made for corporate teams and work alongside IBM's corporate analytics, security and cloud-based services.

As Mashable noted when the partnership launched, the move was a new one for Apple, which has traditionally focused on individual tech users. Like Uber, which recently created an embedded app for work chat service HipChat, consumer-focused tech companies are increasingly partnering with enterprise-friendly heavyweights such as IBM to go after the business market.

Katharyn White, vice president of the Apple and IBM partnership at IBM Global Business Services, told Mashable the company was excited to hit the 100 app milestone, but said the number was secondary to the achievement of having an impact across 14 industries and 65 individual professions, from travel to telecommunications and healthcare.

"It's even more powerful to see these are coming through amazing use cases," she said. "Whether nurses or insurance agents, manufacturing managers or retail shop workers."

Companies such as Coca-Cola Amatil, Japan Post and Scandinavian Airlines are using IBM MobileFirst for iOS apps, but IBM couldn't disclose overall customer numbers.

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank will use the IBM MobileFirst for iOS Trusted Advice app so financial advisors can manage their customer portfolios on iPads, IBM said in an emailed statement. Vodafone Netherlands will deploy an Expert Seller iPad app so account managers can access information about the company's product portfolio on-the-go.

Interesting use cases have also arisen from IBM MobileFirst apps being integrated across Apple devices, White said. She cited the case of Field Connect, an app that's orientated around safety, which when combined with the Apple Watch, can give construction workers a tap on the wrist in an unsafe weather situation.

"We would have never imagined the power of that experience," she added.

IBM will also begin to build its supercomputing capability, Watson, into MobileFirst for iOS apps. This will allow apps to begin to predict customer trends and improve decision making.

"In a financial advisor-type app, where you might be interested in certain types of investments, you could use Watson analytics to visually show you what's trending, what market sentiment is and to help you make decisions," White said. "The analytics and closed loop nature of the apps help ensure the app keeps getting better and smarter each time the user uses it."

In 2016, the Apple and IBM partnership aims to add more apps to the suite as well as more users, she said, but also to add value to existing apps as their analytics improve. IBM is also developing products to take advantage of the iPad Pro's larger screen size and multi-tasking capabilities.

"We put the 100 number out there a while ago, but we couldn't have imagined all this," White said.

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