SAP CEO Bill McDermott welcomed Apple CEO Tim Cook on stage at SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference in Orlando to discuss the firms’ past, present, and future technology partnerships.

Perhaps the most open comment came from Apple’s Cook as he detailed the highs and lows of his organization’s business over the last couple of decades. “For those of you that don’t know, when Apple [as a company] was at its lowest point around about 1997 to 1998, we turned to SAP for the infrastructure of Apple... and it was a key catalyst in what enabled us to turn the company around,” Cook said.

Both men were keen to talk up the popularity of Apple’s devices around SAP’s global headquarters. Apparently, some 100,000 Apple devices are currently in use at SAP and there’s a positive drive to encourage employees to use them even more.

Pleasantries aside, what were the technical details underlying the two firms’ latest moves?

Technically, It’s About Intelligence

The core technical purpose here is focused on intelligence, a theme that resonates well with SAP’s central goal to help more customers create the intelligent enterprise.

SAP and Apple will now work more closely together to build applications that make use of Apple’s own “on-device” machine learning technology, CORE ML, which will now be available as part of the SAP Cloud Platform Software Development Kit (SDK) for Apple’s mobile device operating system, iOS.

Getting to the Core of CORE ML

In simple terms, CORE ML allows software programmers to integrate a broad variety of machine learning “model types” into an application with just a few lines of code. These data model types are blueprint structures that specify what data goes where, any relationships to other data, how often it is refreshed, what the input/output operations are, and other core attributes and parameters. They form an arsenal of machine learning methods to suit different applications tasked with doing (and learning) different things.

In Apple’s case with CORE ML, the technology here is on-device, which means that CORE ML can still learn at times when there is no network connection to a data center server for deeper number crunching and analytics.

Start Training Your Data Models

Once exposed to enough training data, a CORE ML machine learning app can start to do its thing and exhibit some smart behavior. As Apple notes on its developer pages, a trained model is the result of applying a machine learning algorithm to a set of training data.

According to Apple, “The [CORE ML machine learning] model makes predictions based on new input data. For example, a model that’s been trained on a region’s historical house prices may be able to predict a house’s price [in that location] when given the number of bedrooms and bathrooms.”

CORE ML supports Apple’s Vision software framework for image analysis, Apple’s Natural Language technology for natural language processing, and Apple’s own GameplayKit for evaluating learned decision trees.

Now that we know what it is, we need to better understand how this new alliance will work inside the SAP universe.

CORE ML Inside SAP’s Cloud

The SAP Cloud Platform SDK will now allow developers to build intelligent iOS apps powered by SAP Leonardo. Because of the on-device functionality of CORE ML, machine learning models will automatically download to iPhone and iPad apps so that this intelligence can run offline—and then dynamically update while connected to SAP Cloud Platform.

Through the partnership with Apple, SAP has rebuilt its most popular mobile apps for SAP SuccessFactors and SAP Concur solutions, along with SAP Asset Manager, to run natively on iOS. These apps are fully integrated with iPhone and iPad to maximize security, performance, and the latest platform developments from Apple. SAP also announced that it will expand its native iOS experience across its broader applications portfolio, starting with SAP Ariba. Going further, SAP also announced it will expand its app offerings to Apple’s Mac products.

Apple’s Growth Inside the Enterprise

“Apple is on the rise in the enterprise,” McDermott said. “Our customers love the unmatched security and ease of use iOS is known for, and that it gives them a superior platform to build game-changing business apps. We have a strong partnership, and today’s announcements show SAP’s commitment to continue our innovation with Apple.”

“Enterprise customers are seeing real business benefits when they use iOS,” Cook added. “This is an important milestone for our partnership, and we are thrilled to be working together with SAP to empower our customers with the world’s most-trusted business process data on iPhone, iPad, and Mac—the best devices for business.”

A Smarter Smartphone, for Sure

For software developers working in organizations that need help getting started with iOS apps, Apple and SAP are offering nine ready-to-deploy apps spanning a range of industries. They come from developers with proven experience working on the SAP Cloud Platform SDK for iOS.

There’s a lot to like here. SAP is clearly building on what is an already-established technology and business relationship with Apple. As the dust settles from the announcement, it’s hard to imagine that SAP is anti-Android (or anti any platform for that matter) and not open to wider developments of this kind in other technology platforms. Either way, we’re getting smarter smartphone apps with SAP functionality delivered through consumer-grade user interfaces for an improved user experience.

Register to learn how the U.S. Department of the Interior implemented the new SAP Fiori UX and SAP Screen Personas software to modernize its portal.