Over the last three years, General Electric Co. (GE - Get Report) has partnered with a long list of tech and telecom giants to pursue its ambitious tech goals, which include shuttering the vast majority of its data centers and obtaining $12 billion in annual revenue by 2020 from "digital" businesses such as its versatile Predix cloud platform for developing industrial IoT apps. Just which companies an industrial giant such as GE has chosen to team with has often said a lot about the positions of those companies in one market or another.
GE's Predix alliances often serve as good case studies here. For example, the company's decision to partner with Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO - Get Report) to place Predix data-collection software on "ruggedized" Cisco routers meant for industrial environments likely had something to do with Cisco's dominant enterprise router share.
Likewise, GE's decision to partner with AT&T Inc. (T - Get Report) , Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ - Get Report) and Vodafone Group Plc (VOD) on connectivity services for industrial devices that can be remotely monitored and managed via Predix apps is a reflection of those carriers' large enterprise bases and global network reach. And GE's alliance with Intel Corp. (INTC - Get Report) to create "Predix-ready" IoT gateway devices (powered by Intel CPUs) that can take in industrial data and send it to Predix reflects on Intel's enterprise clout and strong IoT gateway position.
Similar points can be made about the deals GE recently struck with Apple Inc. (AAPL - Get Report) and Amazon.com Inc.. (AMZN - Get Report) According to Bloomberg, GE will publish a software development kit (SDK) on Oct. 26 that lets developers write iOS apps that can leverage Predix's data-collection and analysis tools. Apple, meanwhile, will make Predix its "preferred tool for connected factories."
The Apple news comes two weeks after Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced that GE had made AWS its "preferred cloud provider," including for the GE Digital unit that houses Predix. Amazon claims GE has migrated over 2,000 apps to AWS over the last few years, including several that rely on AWS's analytics and machine learning services. In 2015, GE said it wanted to eventually shutter all but four of its 34 data centers in the coming years.
The Apple deal has some things in common with Apple's 2016 alliance with German enterprise software giant SAP SE (SAP - Get Report) . Among other things, that deal led SAP to create an SDK for iOS apps that lets the apps use SAP's Hana Cloud Platform, a platform for building cloud apps that leverage SAP's high-performance Hana in-memory database.
Both partnerships, as well as ones Apple has struck with Cisco (CSCO - Get Report) , IBM (IBM - Get Report) and Accenture, reflect on both the aggressiveness with which Apple has pursued enterprise deals and iOS's outsized corporate market share. Data published by enterprise mobility software firm Good Technology prior to its late-2015 acquisition by BlackBerry (BBRY) often showed iOS having close to a 3-to-1 edge on Android in terms of devices that were activated for use on corporate networks.
Demographics contribute to this lead -- corporate smartphone and tablet users have relatively high average incomes, and Apple punches above its weight with high-income consumers in the U.S. and elsewhere. So does a stronger enterprise app ecosystem -- this partly a result of iOS's enterprise market share, and perhaps also has something to do with the outreaches Apple has made to enterprise developers.
iOS's security strengths also seem to help: Good's data indicated iOS had an especially high activation share in verticals with strict regulatory and compliance needs, such as law firms, financial services firms and government agencies. All of this probably isn't lost on GE, which naturally wants to both see Predix-capable iOS apps used by as many workers as possible and wants to soothe any security fears businesses might have about mobile access to sensitive industrial data.
Regarding the Amazon deal, it's worth noting that GE, like many enterprises, has been willing to work with multiple cloud providers. For example, Predix runs not only on Amazon's cloud infrastructure, but also Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT - Get Report) and Oracle Corp.'s (ORCL - Get Report) infrastructures. But the AWS partnership clearly runs a lot deeper than that. Even as of 2015, GE was talking about moving 9,000 workloads and 300 ERP systems to Amazon's cloud.
The degree to which GE is leaning on Amazon says a lot about how AWS, though seeing tougher competition now than it did a couple years ago, is still in many respects in a league of its own among public cloud platforms. In September, research firm Gartner estimated AWS had a 44.2% 2016 share of the market for cloud infrastructure (IaaS) services such as computing and storage. That was more than six times the share of Microsoft Azure, the No. 2 player, and more than 14 times the share of anyone else.
The market for cloud app platform (PaaS) services -- it covers things such as databases, app-testing tools and analytics and IoT services that cloud developers can leverage -- is more competitive, but AWS is a leader here as well. Synergy Research estimates AWS has a 30%-plus share -- nearly as much as the #2, #3 and #4 players combined. And through the AWS Marketplace, Amazon also provides an unmatched ecosystem of third-party software that cloud clients can deploy.
Throw in AWS' unmatched cloud data center footprint, and GE, which does $125 billion in annual sales, operates in dozens of countries and makes everything from jet engines to ultrasound systems to wind turbines, has quite a few reasons to make AWS its preferred cloud partner. Just as it has quite a few reasons to make Apple its top mobile partner for Predix.
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