IBM Looking Beyond MDM in Mobility Enablement

IBM unveils MobileFirst, its strategy for addressing the total mobile enablement and support, in which it will provide tools for managing, secure and enhancing tablets and smartphones. The vision goes beyond what most mobile device and applications vendors are doing today and could change the mobile landscape.

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When it comes to mobile device management and mobility enablement, IBM isn’t the first company that jumps to mind. Big Blue is looking to change that with a new initiative, MobileFirst, which aims to leapfrog the market in providing greater control and enhanced value for mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones.

Big Blue has been dabbling in mobility management for the last six years, and has made at least 10 acquisitions of smaller technology companies that complement its organically developed products. The new initiative will bring new products and services in mobile security, device management, analytics and applications development.

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MobileFirst isn’t another mobile device management platform, although, it does have elements of that technology. Rather, IBM wants to consolidate the mobility management and operations lifecycle from device configuration and assess administration to application development. This goes far beyond the capabilities of most MDM solutions, and analysts say the only other potential rival with the similar capabilities is SAP.

Mobile device management is one of the hottest technologies in the market and channel today. Solution providers are increasingly responding to customer calls for support in bringing order and reducing risk of allowing mobile devices with a diversity of operating systems on their networks.

Complicating the mobility equation is managing and securing mobile applications. A business that embraces BYOD doesn’t just have a single application management challenge, but at least four potential platforms – Apple iOS, Microsoft Windows 8, Google Android and Blackberry 10 – to write and support apps.

A number of major vendors are pushing deeper into the mobility space. Earlier this week, Citrix announced the rebranding of MDM pioneer Zenprise – a company it acquired last year – as XenMobile MDM. VMware, Symantec, Cisco Systems and others are crafting broader MDM strategies in technologies and the channel. And managed services enablers Level Platforms, N-able and LabTech Software are expanding their MDM capabilities.

IBM isn’t a newcomer to mobility. Its various software divisions have pushed mobile applications and commerce solutions on mobile devices for years. And IBM partners have leveraged the tools of other vendors, such as VMware and Citrix, to emulate IBM mainframe applications on mobile devices, such as the iPad.

The mobility market represents a huge opportunity for vendors and solution providers, alike. More than 1 billion smartphones and 400 million tablets are in circulation today, and those numbers are expected to double over the next three to five years. MDM is a $400 million market, which is expected to balloon into the billions in the near term. IBM looking beyond MDM to total mobility lifecycle management and enablement could shift the dynamics of the mobility enablement and support landscape.

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