IBM launches three mobile software products and services

IBM announced new software and services for mobile devices today, noting that sometime later this year there will be more mobile phones in use worldwide than land-line phones.

IBM’s internal Institute for Business Value also projects that the number of mobile Internet users worldwide should reach 1 billion this year, nearly 200% above the number in 2006. Two-thirds of all workers are estimated to use mobile and wireless computing, IBM said.

That kind of market growth makes the provision of software for mobile devices more important than ever, said Shawne Robinson, product manager for mobile and wireless at IBM’s software group.

Among its new offerings, IBM unveiled IBM Rational Host Access Transformation Services (HATS), which allows developers to transform green-screen applications that usually run on mainframe systems so they can be securely accessed by mobile users from wireless devices, Robinson said. An insurance adjuster could, for instance, access details of a claim on the road via a mobile device, retrieving data from a mainframe.

Pricing for HATS starts at $268 per user for businesses looking to transform System z and IBM i applications for mobile use. That price is $124 per user for transforming just IBM i applications.

Another software product, Rational Business Developer, is designed to help mainframe developers create new apps that run on a mainframe or a mobile device, IBM officials said. It uses IBM’s new Enterprise Generation Language, a programming language, to help them create business applications for System z or System i platforms without the need for familiarity with the middleware or platform. Rational Business Developer will sell for $3,000 per developer.

IBM also announced WebSphere Business Monitor software, which is designed to allow business managers to monitor business processes, such as sales in progress. The software includes client software that resides on each mobile device and communicates information to a dashboard that a business manager can access in a central office. The software is now available for BlackBerry devices and will be available for the iPhone in the fourth quarter. Pricing was not announced.

IBM is already selling Cognos 8 Go Mobile software so users can interact with Business Intelligence content to improve decisions, Robinson noted. In July, IBM also released a beta version of Domino Web Access 8.0.2 for delivering Web access, e-mail and calendar functions to the iPhone 3G, Robinson said. The full release is set for later this month, when the product will be rebranded Lotus iNotes.

In addition to the software products, IBM announced Mobility@Work, a consulting service designed to help with integration of customer relationship management tools and other software for mobile collaboration between members of a work team or company. Robinson said the service will rely on recent advances in cloud computing where users access software and services wirelessly when needed.

In a related announcement, IBM also said it is expanding existing relationships with AT&T Inc. and Sprint Nextel Corp. to broaden e-mail access to IBM Lotus Notes and Domino users. Both carriers have certified IBM Lotus Notes Traveler software for their wireless customers, meaning they can replicate Notes e-mail, calendaring and personal information. An advantage of the certification is that Traveler software can be loaded by a user with all the setup steps pre-configured, meaning that a device will be “wireless replication-ready” as soon as the user starts using it.

Robinson said there are more than 140 million Notes and Domino licenses worldwide. AT&T and Sprint together will support 12 different devices with the software.

While IBM has a long tradition of mobile device software, it is also taking advantage of partnerships with a variety of other mobile software vendors, Robinson noted.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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