IBM Makes Mobile Devices, 'Real' Computers
Does IBM have Apple iPhone to thank for its new business venture?

by Joe Leo, Columnist

COMMENTARY: 8.08.08-- A press release by IBM today has the company announcing the debut of "new software and services for mobile devices that closely mimic desktop features formerly found only on the PC." In essence, saying (as the NewsMarket--our source--puts it) that mobile devices will operate more like personal computers such as a desktop or notebook.

Didn't Apple already address this issue with the debut of the iPhone and iPod touch with OS X software underneath? In the spirit of the '08 Summer Olympics, let the games begin!

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In the press release, "According to a recent report from IBM's Institute for Business Value, the number of mobile Internet users worldwide is projected to approach 1 billion, a 191 percent increase from 2006 and a compound annual growth rate of 24 percent. Also, 67 percent of all workers today use mobile and wireless computing."

Wonder how much of that 67% are iPhone users who also use Safari as their mobile web? Not to mention what that number does to affect the annual growth rate since the iPhone's release?

To be fair, IBM is not competing with Apple nor claims to be doing so. In fact, IBM is unbiased in its approach, stating, "IBM's software is built on open standards so it can be used with most mobile platforms including BlackBerry, iPhone, Windows Mobile, and Symbian."

Through a related link on their website, IBM says that 2008 marks the first time that more mobile phones are in use across the globe than landline ones. Also, computers are trumped by mobile devices three-to-one. (So for every 100 computers, 300 mobile devices are in use).

In response to this research and subsequent statistics, IBM states, "To capture this market demand, IBM is combining its software, services and research expertise to develop new mobile products and services. The new software includes products with business intelligence, collaboration, social networking and business performance capabilities."

Furthermore, "In addition, IBM is providing developers with new tools to make existing software applications run on mobile devices."

Drew Clark, IBM Venture Capital Group's director of strategy says in the release, "The mobile Web presents one of the largest emerging market opportunities we've seen in a decade as billions of people look to access a wide range of services for both business and personal use."

The interesting aspect in all of this is IBM's approach to catering these services and software to the business world. While also available for consumers, the focus is on providing enhanced capabilities useful to the enterprise, such as better productivity, streamlined processes, and improved communications that are beneficial to the whole package.

IBM states, "To keep up with this exploding demand for new and more powerful mobile applications, IBM is taking advantage of recent advances in cloud computing, a paradigm in which tasks are assigned to a combination of connections, software and services accessed over a network... [where] users can reach into the cloud for resources when they need them."

With Apple's own software nightmare with its recently rolled out "MobileMe" application, hopefully IBM got the external memo of the internal memo Steve Jobs sent to his staff.

Doug Heintzman of IBM Lotus, in a video reel accompanying the press release found on their site, says, "The idea that decision making can be coordinated between a great number of people wherever they happen to be ... around the globe is a tremendously powerful, even societally transforming phenomenon. And so, we're very very proud to be at the very leading edge."

So where does Apple and the iPhone (or even iPod touch) fit in to this picture? That's a whole different story for another day, one that most in the Mac world already know the answer to.