Summary:

IBM is stepping up its mobile profile, buying up Israeli mobile app provider Worklight and releasing a new device management tool for enterprise customers. The moves help IBM capitalize on the push toward mobile by enterprises as they manage an exploding number of devices and apps.

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IBM, which has quietly supported many telecom players, is now stepping up its mobile profile, buying up Israeli mobile app provider Worklight and releasing a new device management tool for enterprise customers. The moves help IBM capitalize on the push toward mobile by companies as they manage an exploding number of devices and apps.

IBM’s purchase of Worklight will allow it to offer customers a simple way to create apps that can run on all manner of devices on multiple platforms such as iOS, Android and BlackBerry. Worklight, which has previously partnered with IBM, also offers an integrated development environment along with middleware, management and analytics. By using Worklight, IT staffs can also create secure connections between mobile devices and their enterprise IT systems.

The acquisition is set to close in the first quarter. The terms of the deal were not announced. Worklight will be moved into IBM’s Software Group.

The pick-up helps enhance IBM’s mobile portfolio and makes it more appealing to companies looking to leverage tablets and smartphones. In a recent IBM survey of 3,000 CIOs, three out of four respondents said mobility solutions was one of their top spending priorities.

In that same vein, IBM also unveiled a new software system called IBM Endpoint Manager for Mobile Devices. The software will help IT teams manage their exploding fleet of mobile devices, which are growing thanks to bring-your-own-device policies. IDC said that nearly half of all mobile devices in the workplace came from employees. With Endpoint Manager, companies will be able to remotely set policies, wipe data from devices, look for security holes and configure passcodes, encryption and virtual private network settings.  This will work on iOS, Android, Symbian and Windows devices as well as computers and servers.

The move to beef up IBM’s mobile credentials makes sense in a market that is moving increasingly in that direction. SAP bought Sybase in 2010 for $5.8 billion in part for Sybase’s mobile middleware and device management platform. Research in Motion recently unveiled a new device management and security tool called BlackBerry Mobile Fusion that allows companies to secure iOS and Android devices through BlackBerry Enterprise Servers. And Good Technology has been building up its business managing and securing enterprise devices and this past fall also introduced a new platform called Good Dynamics that allow companies, ISVs and developers to create and manage secure mobile apps using Good’s infrastructure.

“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, IBM application and infrastructure middleware.

Just as consumers have gone mobile and app crazy, it’s influencing companies, which are having to adapt. There’s still a good opportunity for competitors like IBM to help make sense of it all for companies and provide them with secure tools as they mobilize.

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