Big Blue's deal positions it to meet the growing demand for tools that let developers write cross-platform mobile apps.
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IBM said Tuesday that it has reached a deal to acquire Worklight, an Israel-based developer of tools that help enterprise development teams roll out mobile apps for smartphones and tablets. IBM did not disclose how much it agreed to pay for Worklight, which is privately held.
Worklight specializes in tools that allow developers to create apps that can run across multiple mobile platforms without having to translate for each environment. Among the platforms the company's tools support are Apple iOS, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, and Windows Phone 7.5 Mango.
IBM officials said that adding Worklight's offerings to its portfolio of developer tools better positions the company to meet customer demand for software that lets developers get mobile enterprise apps into the hands of users more quickly.
"Our clients are under increased pressure to meet the growing demands of a workforce and customer base that now treat mobility as mission critical to their business," said Marie Wieck, IBM's general manager for application and infrastructure middleware, in a statement. "With the acquisition of Worklight, IBM is well-positioned to help clients become smarter mobile enterprises reaching new markets."
IBM said its recent poll of 3,000 global CIOs found that 75% view mobile solutions as a top spending priority. The company also noted that smartphone shipments exceeded PC shipments for the first time in 2011.
Among the companies that are using Worklight's tools to write mobile applications for employees and customers are Best Western, FIS Software, and AT&T.
Under IBM, Worklight's tools--which let developers create HTML5, native, or hybrid apps--will compete for market share with Appcelerator, Pyxis, Rhomobile, and other mobile specialists that are "on a hypergrowth trajectory," said IDC analyst Al Hilwa, who called Tuesday's deal "probably IBM's biggest move into mobility to date."
Hilwa said the push is understandable. "We are seeing that enterprise mobility is beginning to take off as tablets make their way into the enterprise, and businesses definitely need such tools in order not to write their apps many times over for each mobile platform."
Under IBM, Worklight "will continue to enhance our technology with the same spirit and vision that has made us unique in the mobile landscape," said Worklight founder and CEO Shahar Kaminitz, in a letter to employees and customers.
IBM has publicly committed to spend roughly $20 billion on acquisitions through 2015. Last year alone, the company announced or completed buyouts of several software companies, including the $387 million acquisition, made public in September, of risk analysis specialist Algorithmics. Also since January 2011, IBM has inked deals to acquire Tririga, i2, Q1 Labs, and private-cloud developer Platform Computing.
The agreement to acquire Worklight is the second buy under Ginni Rometty, who took over as IBM's CEO on Jan. 1. Earlier this month, the company struck a deal for testing specialist Green Hat.
IBM said it expects the deal for Worklight to close in the current quarter.
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