A day after VMware rolled out Horizon to deal with challenges in a "bring your own device" world, IBM unveiled MobileFirst. Big Blue is billing MobileFirst as a comprehensive mobile portfolio that combines security, analytics and app development software with cloud-based services and deep mobile expertise.

Practically speaking, enterprises can tap MobileFirst solutions to streamline management of employee mobile devices, create a new mobile-commerce app, and tackle other mobile-specific tasks. The solutions are based, in part, on 270 patents in wireless innovations and 10 mobile-related acquisitions in the past four years.

Robert LeBlanc, senior vice president of Middleware Software at IBM, said mobile computing to date has been dominated by discussions of new smartphones, operating systems, games and apps. But enterprises have yet to tap into the potential of mobile business.

"Just as the Internet transformed the way we bank, book vacations and manage our healthcare, mobile computing is also transforming industries," LeBlanc said. "As these devices become ingrained in everything that we do, businesses are now in the palms of their customers' hands."

Inside MobileFirst

Here's IBM's premise: In order to be successful in embracing mobile for driving revenue growth, clients need an integrated strategy for mobile, cloud, Big Data, social business and security. According to IBM's recent Tech Trends Report, only one in 10 organizations has the skills needed to effectively apply advanced technologies such as mobile computing. With MobileFirst, IBM aims to help clients harness these complex technologies to drive innovation and growth.

With MobileFirst, IBM has expanded the capabilities of IBM Worklight to simplify deployment with features like single sign-on capabilities for multiple applications. IBM also extended its context-based, mobile-access control solutions and expanded mobile-application vulnerability testing with support for Apple iOS apps in the latest release of AppScan.

Meanwhile, new updates to IBM Endpoint Manager include enhanced support for BYOD programs and increased security standards that are critical to governments and regulated environments. And IBM is expanding its Tealeaf CX Mobile solution to give enterprises more visual insight into mobile behaviors so they can better understand where improvements are needed and create exceptional and consistent consumer experiences across mobile devices.

A Game Changer

Laura DiDio, principal analyst at Information Technology Intelligence Consulting, said IBM's MobileFirst announcement was a "game changer" for IBM and its customers.

"MobileFirst is a clear acknowledgment by IBM that cloud and social media are changing the way organizations and their end users do business," DiDio told us. "IBM's MobileFirst will address these needs in the manner for which Big Blue is known: with products and a comprehensive strategy."

IBM's strategy is deceptively simple in that it does not have to sell a mobile operating system like Google's Android or Apple's iOS, she said. Instead, IBM will meld mobile issues in with its core competencies in areas like cloud computing, Big Data analytics and APIs.

"Mobility is now a pervasive 'must have' business tool. IBM has a great deal of expertise in mobility and mobility service and support," she said. "But it doesn't stop there. The data and the data transmissions associated with mobility will have to be processed, APIs will connect federated applications, which must then be stored and synthesized."

DiDio said these are all technologies in which IBM excels and which it backs up with its global services organization. It has a deep, broad cloud, social and a Big Data ecosystem, so when IBM is pitching a mobility engagement, the Big Blue salesperson can also upsell other lucrative IBM products and services to support mobility -- and first and foremost they will lead with the cloud.

"There is no doubt that MobileFirst has a lot of moving parts and IBM will face the usual challenges in getting it off the ground," she said, "but no high-technology company has better brand recognition, more trust and is better positioned to execute such an initiative than IBM."