LAS VEGAS – Toronto will be the site of one of 18 new mobile application development studios that IBM plans to set up around the world, the company announced at its Impact conference.
Called IBM MobileFirst studios, other locations include cities in the U.S., Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Australia. It’s one of a number of announcements the company made to attract mobile developers to its platforms. These include pre-made apps that can be customized.
The mobile lab will be part of the new Interactive Experience Lab for creating apps for the Web, kiosks and other multi-channel outlets in downtown Toronto and expected to open in a few months, said Warren Tomlin, IBM ‘s North American labs leader. It will focus helping customers creating mobile applications based on industry-specific, pre-configured Ready Apps created by IBM.
“It allows us to take the good work we’re already doing for our clients and reduce development time by leveraging Ready Apps,” Tomlin said in an interview.
For IBM, one of the goals of launching the portfolio 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.”
With more businesses looking towards mobile in their futures, the new MobileFirst toolkit is geared towards the mobile app design process in businesses of all sizes. The portfolio pulls together existing IBM services such as 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 at Impact. 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 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, Scotiabank’s online Tangerine bank, formerly known as ING Direct, created an app for mobile banking in Canada using IBM products including 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.”
A Ready App for industrial and connected homes lets users control thermostats, lights, appliances, alarm systems and monitor energy usage.