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6/23/2010
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Global CIO: IBM And Hewlett-Packard Battle Over Booming Mobile Market

While HP's got networking gear and Palm WebOS, IBM's porting its software for mobile use and its Sterling acquisition is critical.

Have you checked out the new IBM TrueBlue smartphone? Or its slick new LittleBluePad?

I hope your answer's no because IBM's not in the mobile-device market.

But IBM is deeply and powerfully in the mobile-enterprise business—and in a big way. And it's using acquisitions, middleware, R&D labs, and one of the largest software organizations on Earth to enhance that position as the one company that can do the most to create the mobile-infrastructure software to make the fully interconnected and highly collaborative global-mobile enterprise a reality.

Of course, Hewlett-Packard has its own ideas about who's going to claim that top spot in providing and driving infrastructure for global-mobile networks. HP has a massive portfolio of networking products (ProCurve and the former 3Com) plus Palm and its WebOS and devices to add into the mix along with a conviction equal to IBM's about the looming ascendancy of the mobile platform.

About a year ago, IBM disclosed some of the thinking behind its mobile-enterprise strategy in a paper called, "Mobile and enterprise access solutions," and it's fascinating to see that while much of that thinking from 10 months ago still holds true, a great deal has changed as well—for not only IBM but also the entire business-technology world.

Indeed, the new consensus is that mobile computing is in the midst of a stunningly rapid transition from an intriguing though sometimes overly complex extension of the PC to supplanting notebooks as the mainstream channel for exchanging and analyzing information and ultimately for making business decisions.

(For more analysis and perspectives on mobile issues facing CIOs, please check out our "Recommended Reading" list at the end of this column.)

Here's a quick excerpt from that IBM paper on mobility from August 2009:

"With a predicted compound annual growth rate of 21% in the number of enterprise mobile users from 2008 to 2012, IT professionals will be facing an onslaught in demand among a broader cross-section of employees who will expect to be able to perform some aspects of their jobs from handheld devices," the paper says. "With an effective mobile-device strategy, companies worldwide can make more-informed business decisions, accelerate transactions, strengthen relationships with customers and business partners, and provide onsite services—at the time and place required."

That's a pretty aggressive agenda IBM's laying out—relationship enhancement, increased speed in transactions and decision-making, end-to-end synchronization across supply and demand chains—and it's using two recent sporting events of global interest—the U.S. Open golf tournament and the Wimbledon tennis tournament—to showcase the power and potential of advanced mobile technology.

From a Bloomberg news story on IBM's mobile showcase at the U.S. Open:

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The company developed a smartphone app that lets users track the tournament and players' statistics. It even shows what is called a heat map of the course, revealing the most challenging holes," the article says.

IBM's strategy isn't about reaching more consumers. Instead, it wants to show business customers how its technology can handle a huge surge in traffic without breaking the bank. While the number of people using the U.S. Open site jumped from a year earlier, IBM was able to cut the cost per user by 25 percent, said John Kent, program manager for the company's sponsorship marketing.

Sounds a little wonky, right? Maybe so, but judging by the number of downloads, wonky may be the new black, according to some stats offered in the article:

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