BIGGISH BLUE IBM is going after the lucrative mobile market with a bundle of products for application development, security and connectivity.
IBM has wasted no time in exploiting the technology it acquired through its January purchase of mobile apps platform provider Worklight, which underpins the new Mobile Foundation release. At its Impact show in Las Vegas on Monday, the firm launched a new set of mobile tools that let developers build a single application and then run it across multiple mobile platforms, such as Apple's IOS, Google's Android and RIM's Blackberry.
To support this simplified development approach, IBM has also updated Websphere Cast Iron. Another acquired product, Cast Iron lets firms connect their mobile apps to cloud services and other back-end systems.
IBM has also refreshed Endpoint Manager to allow firms to manage all devices, from servers through to smartphones, from a single management console.
Bob Sutor, VP for IBM Mobile Platform said that Mobile Foundation is a key release for the firm as the number of businesses looking at supporting mobile grows, whether that is developing apps or managing devices. He noted that on average 61 per cent of IT chiefs think they should be supporting mobile, adding that in certain industries like financial services, healthcare and government the percentage is much higher.
Mobile Foundation's biggest selling point is that the development work is repeatable, according to Sutor.
"The industry is progressing at different rates for mobile. Banks and insurance companies are already looking at doing their second mobile application. The first was beautiful, but too expensive," he said.
"They can either buy into one mobile product, or they can use a platform that allows them to build five or 10 or 15 mobile apps. Companies want it to be repeatable."
In the same way, firms are looking for the web development skills available in their existing software engineering teams to be transferable to the mobile app space, another capability of Mobile Foundation through its support of standards such as HTML5.
"They don't want to rewrite the back-end web development platform to do mobile, they want to extend what they're already doing," Sutor said.
One early customer of Mobile Foundation is US tyre reseller and retail automotive services firm TBC.
John Capriotti, VP of Web and Ecommerce at TBC said that as everyone has a mobile device, the firm was keen to find a way to develop a mobile app that would offer a useful experience. The firm is using IBM Worklight to offer customers an app that can update them on the status of their vehicle during the work phase.
He added that Worklight enables the "inner control freak" of the TBC development team, allowing it to stay in complete control of the user experience. Coding support for CSS3 and HTML5 is also a selling point, as the team can work within their existing application framework.
The next stage for IBM in mobile, according to Sutor, is to combine apps development with analytics.
He gave the example of a recent experience he had at Detroit airport, when a gate change was announced which meant a 15 to 20-minute walk for passengers - and worse, this walk would take them past a row of restaurants after a flight that did not include a meal.
He explained that in the future, integrated mobile analytics technology could allow the airline to investigate moving the plane to a gate that would be more convenient for the travellers, and could alert passengers to which restaurants they were walking past on their way to the new gate that would serve them a meal in the available time. µ