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Will International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) Hit Gold with MobileFirst?

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International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM), which had worked hard to build formidable products and services in cloud and analytics, had suddenly found itself inadequate in mobility, a rapidly-emerging area that was becoming a conduit to these two businesses. To expand its mobile presence, IBM plans to double its investment in mobility. It’s an attempt to offer an enterprise mobility solution that will be a one stop shop for customers. To make this grand plan a reality, IBM announced what it has dubbed IBM MobileFirst.

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IBM MobileFirst is designed to help enterprises build a total and integrated mobile strategy — and emphasizes a top-down strategic approach over a more tactical bottom-up approach. That is not to say that MobileFirst won’t support the latter — sure it will.

In this post, while I’ll focus on IBM’s potential in enterprise mobility, I’ll also analyze its competitive position in the peer group. Let’s see if there’s a wide moat for investors in International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM) MobileFirst.

With MobileFirst, International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM) offers a comprehensive IT solution

A comprehensive information technology solution will cover Cloud, Social, Mobile and Information, that’s according to Gartner’s ‘Nexus of Forces’. After much research and reporting, Gartner has ultimately decided that companies leveraging these four tech realms will prevail, and those that don’t will not be as successful.

It’s a tall order to successfully pull off each individual piece of such a comprehensive strategy. IBM and a few of its competitors — such as SAP AG (ADR) (NYSE:SAP), EMC Corporation (NYSE:EMC) and VMware, Inc. (NYSE:VMW) — are in a position to offer customers solutions in all the four areas. While SAP has already been in the mobility space for quite some time, apart from cloud, analytics and social media, IBM and VMware joined the mobile league only in 2013.

IBM MobileFirst: What’s inside?

The key components of MobileFirst include:

IBM MobileFirst Platform: It will help expand the capabilities of International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM) Worklight to simplify deployment, as well as the ability to deliver single sign-on capabilities for multiple applications.

IBM MobileFirst Security: IBM has extended its context-based mobile access control solutions and has expanded the mobile application vulnerability testing capabilities of AppScan, which now also provides support for Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS apps.

IBM MobileFirst Management: It will include enhanced support for BYOD programs and increased security standards that are critical for all facets of government — federal, state or local, and regulated environments — especially healthcare.

IBM MobileFirst Analytics: IBM is also expanding its Tealeaf CX Mobile solution to give enterprises more visual insight into mobile behaviors.

International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM) vs. SAP AG (ADR) (NYSE:SAP): SAP an early mover in mobility

SAP has moved from being an applications vendor to software provider with a broad portfolio that includes business analytics, information management and mobility infrastructure. Although weak in adoption of social media, SAP has embraced the Nexus of Forces as its go-to-market strategy, says Gartner.

SAP’s business strategy fits into Gartner’s Nexus as it embraces the cloud, mobile and information forces. SAP continues to execute its mobile strategy aggressively to become a leader in enterprise mobile development. SAP has reinforced its early bet on mobility (compared to other major independent software vendors) through organizational changes that place it on an equal footing with other major SAP initiatives, such as Hana. International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM)’s MobileFirst program will face fierce competition from SAP.

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