Apple and IBM have just announced what the companies describe as a "landmark partnership" designed to "redefine the way work will get done, address key industry mobility challenges and spark true mobile-led business change." Put more simply, they're aiming to combine their respective strengths and aggressively tackle the enterprise market. IBM says it will contribute its big data and analytics expertise, with Apple offering the "elegant user experience of iPhone and iPad." The move could transform Apple, which ordinarily focuses squarely on consumers, into a true business powerhouse. It could also touch off a new battle with Microsoft, which now more than ever is focused on the enterprise and cloud services.

Apple and IBM want to conquer the enterprise

IBM will sell iOS devices to corporate clients that come preloaded with enterprise software designed in collaboration with Apple; those apps will become available "starting this fall" with more debuting in 2015. Both companies are promising "a new category of mobile apps" that address the needs of specific industries like "retail, healthcare, banking, travel, telecommunications, and insurance." The apps will of course make heavy use of IBM's cloud infrastructure, all the while coexisting with Apple's own services like iCloud. Apple also announced that it plans to add a new  "AppleCare for Enterprise" customer service tier that will provide IT departments and users with 24/7 support.

In an interview with Recode, Tim Cook basically admitted that Apple needed to look outside the company to piece together an offering that meets every conceivable enterprise need. "We’re good at building a simple experience and in building devices," he said. "The kind of deep industry expertise you would need to really transform the enterprise isn’t in our DNA. But it is in IBM’s." Apple has fared alright without IBM's support; plenty of Fortune 500 businesses have already deployed many, many iPhones and iPads to end users.

But teaming with IBM will only take that momentum further. "Arguably there is a new level to achieve in business," he told CNBC. "We knew we couldn't do it alone," Cook said, adding that Apple found a "kindred spirit" in IBM. Ginni Rometty, IBM's CEO, agrees. "We are delighted to be teaming with Apple, whose innovations have transformed our lives in ways we take for granted, but can’t imagine living without," she said in a statement. "Our alliance will bring the same kind of transformation to the way people work, industries operate and companies perform." The Apple / IBM pairing is a