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Ben Kepes asks the right question at the end of IBM Drinks The Kool Aide – Launches An Enteprise App Store at Forbes.

The story is about IBM moves to sell enterprise software to corporate customers in much the same way iPhone users can pick up software from Apple’s App Store.

In some ways it is an idea whose time has come. App stores are springing up everywhere, IBM isn’t the first company to sell software to the big end of town this way.

And yet, it’s a hard trick for IBM to pull off. As Kepes writes:

… the key question is whether IBM can sufficiently change its DNA and the DNA of its customers to move on from buying software from fat cat salespeople driving late model European sports cars to simply swiping their credit card from the comfort of their own cubicle…

Few IBM customers will worry about the switch although it may mean an end to splashy hospitality. I’m assuming this still happens. Maybe it doesn’t (anonymous tip-offs on this are welcome).

IBM concerns centre on getting a suitably large clip of the ticket and exercising enough control over third-party software vendors.

What’s interesting here is the lesson IBM hasn’t learned.

As Kepes says: “IBM is also only going to accept vendors who can run their products on Softlayer”. That limits the scope of the app store and its relevance. If that policy doesn’t change soon, it limits IBM’s role in the future of Enterprise IT. IBM could have positioned itself at the centre of cloud-based enterprise computing. It chose not to. 

Compare this with Microsoft’s move to put Office on the iPad, a move which suddenly made Office relevant again.