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IBM To Advance Mobile Strategy With Worklight Acquisition

Darryl K. Taft covers IBM, big data and a number of other topics for TechWeekEurope and eWeek

IBM plans to buy Worklight, a maker of mobile app development and management software, to bolster its enterprise mobile strategy

IBM has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Worklight, a privately held Israel-based provider of mobile software for smartphones and tablets.

The company said the acquisition will help IBM’s mobile offerings to span mobile application development, integration, security and management. Worklight will become a key piece of IBM’s mobility strategy, offering clients an open platform that helps speed the delivery of existing and new mobile applications to multiple devices. It also helps enable secure connections between smartphone and tablet applications with enterprise IT systems.

Worklight will sit within IBM’s Software Group and the acquisition is expected to close in the first quarter of 2012.

Mobility market on the move

In a recent IBM study of more than 3,000 global CIOs, 75 percent of respondents identified mobility products as their top spending priorities. Meanwhile, for the first time ever, shipments of smartphones exceeded total PC shipments in 2011.

“Our clients are under increased pressure to meet the growing demands of a workforce and customer base that now treat mobility as mission critical to their business,” said Marie Wieck, general manager of IBM application and infrastructure middleware, in a statement. “With the acquisition of Worklight, IBM is well-positioned to help clients become smarter mobile enterprises reaching new markets.”

IBM said that, through both organic growth and acquisitions, it has built up its mobile strategy to the point where it can now offer a complete portfolio of software and services that delivers enterprise-ready mobility for clients – from IT systems all the way through to mobile devices. This builds on IBM’s deep understanding of its clients and their evolving IT needs over the last several decades.

The world’s top 20 communications service providers use IBM technology to run their applications, while every day more than one billion mobile phone subscribers are touched by IBM software, IBM said.

Worklight supports consumer and employee-facing applications in a broad range of industries, including financial services, retail and healthcare. For example, a bank can create a single application that offers features to enable its customers to securely connect to their account, pay bills and manage their investments, regardless of the device they are using. Similarly, a hospital could use Worklight technology to extend its existing IT system to allow direct input of health history, allergies, and prescriptions by a patient using a tablet.

IDE, middleware and analytics

Worklight’s software enables organisations to efficiently create and run HTML5, hybrid and native applications for smartphones and tablets with industry-standard technologies and tools. Worklight’s capabilities provide a complete and extensible integrated development environment (IDE), next-generation mobile middleware, flexible management and analytics. Worklight dramatically reduces time to market, cost and complexity while enabling better customer and employee user experiences across more devices, the company said.

In a research note on the acquisition, Brian Marshall, IT hardware and data networking analyst at International Strategy & Investment Group, said: “The company will be a part of IBM’s Software Group and we believe the deal is strategic in adding to IBM’s mobile offerings which will span mobile application development, integration, security and management. We believe IBM is among the best in large-cap technology at building high-value software capabilities through acquisition and has increased its efforts in recent months (e.g., Green Hat, Curam, Emptoris, DMAN, etc.)”

Worklight builds on IBM’s mobile capabilities in the areas of building and connecting mobile applications, managing and securing mobile devices, and extending existing capabilities and capitalising on new business opportunities.

IBM’s strategy is to offer its customers a complete set of the software and services they need to effectively bring mobile devices into their business infrastructure. The explosive growth of mobile has created a fragmented landscape for enterprises to support, often with limited budgets and skills. IBM’s development and integration tools, complemented by Worklight, help clients to develop mobile applications and their supporting infrastructures for a variety of platforms just once – including Apple iOS and Google Android – while offering capabilities to securely connect to corporate IT systems.

Bring your own security

As “bring your own device” (BYOD) gains popularity, IT departments are looking to find an efficient and secure way to enable employees’ use of mobile devices in the workplace. Rather than implement a separate infrastructure solely for mobile devices, IBM’s offerings are helping customers deliver a single application that effectively manages and secures all endpoints. These unified capabilities can now extend from servers and laptops, to smartphones and tablets, IBM said.

Meanwhile, the rapid adoption of mobile computing is also creating demand for organisations to extend their current business capabilities to mobile devices, while capitalising on the new opportunities that mobile devices uniquely provide, IBM said.

“In the last year, we have seen surging demand from enterprises for mobility solutions that will support the unique set of challenges introduced by new smartphone and tablet platforms,” said Shahar Kaminitz, CEO and founder of Worklight, in a statement. “Building on our existing partnership with IBM, the acquisition of Worklight further enhances IBM’s broad mobile portfolio. Now it will be easier than ever for our clients to offer secure and connected applications to their customers, business partners and employees.”

In addition to Worklight, IBM today is also unveiling IBM Endpoint Manager for Mobile Devices, a new software system that will enable corporate users to manage and secure their mobile devices these applications are running on.