LAS VEGAS – With more businesses looking towards mobile in their futures, IBM Corp. is rolling out a new toolkit for the mobile app design process, geared towards businesses of all sizes.

During its Impact conference this week, IBM announced it was launching the MobileFirst Application Development Portfolio, which pulls together existing IBM services like Worklight, a platform designed for mobile apps in the enterprise. It gets deployed on a customer’s IT infrastructure, rather than in the cloud, and it’s touted as being more secure as it offers app scanning capabilities to warn of potential data leaks. Worklight supports both native software development kits, as well as hybrid models.

However, this new portfolio also includes BlueMix, a cloud-based platform allowing startup developers to quickly code, QA test, and release new versions of their apps, all from one place.

Both Worklight and BlueMix are compatible with Cloudant, an IBM acquisition that allows developers to leverage IBM’s NoSQL distributed databases for their mobile apps.
While the big story at the conference was around IBM’s bid to appeal to startups with its updates to BlueMix, with the launch of its new portfolio, the company is eager to show it hasn’t left out developers working for mid-sized companies and enterprise-sized organizations.

“Our core app family of offerings is really based around this notion of a pattern,” said Marie Wieck, general manager of IBM’s MobileFirst, during a press conference on Monday. And during her keynote presentation, she said all businesses need to think about ways to build apps that “delight” customers.

To help businesses create user-friendly, well-designed apps, IBM has launched IBM Ready Apps, a series of app templates for businesses working in specific industries like retail, banking, healthcare, insurance, travel, transportation, and government. Companies can customize the apps to fit their brands, and they can also add features with common application programming interfaces.

For example, Tangerine, formerly known as ING Direct, created an app for mobile banking in Canada using IBM products like Worklight, PureApp, and SoftLayer.

On the retail side, IBM launched a Ready App for employees in physical brick-and-mortar stores. They can use a dashboard to see their sales, inventory, and even take advantage of some location-based marketing by seeing which store areas attract the most customers.

“We have a number of different industry sample applications – user scenarios, ROI calculators, process templates,” Wieck said. “You really need to change your backend processes and backend systems to accommodate that new workflow, to streamline your own operations and to provide that speed.”

IBM will also be launching 18 new studios dedicated to leveraging the MobileFirst portfolio, including one in Toronto. Other locations include cities in the U.S., Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Australia.

For IBM, one of the goals of launching these toolsets is to widen its customer base and to appeal to companies both large and small. For example, when the company acquired SoftLayer in July 2013, it noted SoftLayer had been very successful with startups, while IBM traditionally has not been a startup stronghold, said Nancy Pearson, vice-president of IBM’s cloud category marketing, in an interview.

“We are transforming ourselves in the context of where the market is going,” she said. “It’s the whole channel of IBM as a service.”

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