IBM announced today that it has reached a definitive agreement to acquire Worklight, a privately held Israeli-based mobile applications platform vendor. The deal is expected to close quickly.
Worklight's platform allows enterprises to create and run HTML5, hybrid and native applications on smartphones and tablets using industry-standard technologies and tools. Worklight provides a complete and extensible integrated development environment, mobile middleware, and management and analytics tools.
The acquisition of the relatively small company makes for a nice "technology tuck-in" for IBM, which has lacked a well-integrated mobile app platform capability. With the acquisition IBM's mobile capabilities will now span mobile application development, integration, security and management. Worklight will allow IBM to offer its tens of thousands of Websphere customers an open platform that will notably speed the delivery of existing and new mobile applications across multiple mobile device platforms. It also helps enable secure connections between smartphone and tablet applications with enterprise IT systems.
Worklight accelerates IBM's comprehensive mobile portfolio, which is designed to help global corporations leverage the proliferation of all mobile devices -- from laptops and smartphones to tablets. IBM has unrelentingly invested in this space for many years, both organically and in particular through acquisitions.
When asked what was a key element of the acquisition for IBM, Bob Sutor, VP for Mobility, responded by saying that, "Worklight is built on Java, it runs directly within our Websphere platform and provides full support for our Eclipse-based tools. For IBM, which has thousands of Websphere customers, it was an easy decision. We'll have Worklight operational in very short order."
Sutor adds that "IBM is specifically interested in delivering the entire range of mobile app capabilities. That app can be a pure HTML5 app, it can be a hybrid app or it can be a full scale native app. Given that, and given that our customers already use Websphere, DB2, and MQ, we were looking for a means of delivering a well-integrated mobile app development platform that would allow us to easily integrate with our existing back end systems and middleware platforms."
IBM's own Global Services teams will benefit the most from Worklight. Building mobile applications with IBM's existing tools has never been easy, it has never been cheap, and it has never been quick. Worklight can change this scenario in non-trivial ways though it remains to be seen if this scenario will actually play out. IBM's strategy will focus on offering its customers a complete range of mobile capabilities.
These include the following:
- Build and Connect Mobile Applications: IBM's development and integration tools, complemented by Worklight, will help customers develop mobile applications and their supporting infrastructures for a variety of platforms - including Apple iOS and Google Android - while offering capabilities to securely connect to corporate back end systems
- Manage and Secure Mobile Devices: Rather than implement a separate infrastructure solely for mobile device management, IBM provides customers with a single solution that manages and secures all endpoints. These unified capabilities can now extend from servers and laptops, to smartphones and tablets
It is interesting that IBM looked to one of the smaller mobile application development platform players for its mobile app needs. There are a number of larger players here that might have served as acquisition targets. We have been aware for some time that IBM Websphere management team has been on the lookout for the right mobile app vendor to either partner with or acquire. Worklight primarily fits the bill because it can be directly integrated with Websphere.
Will choosing IBM to meet enterprise mobile needs now prove to be an easier mobile decision for enterprises? If the enterprise is large and is already an IBM shop, absolutely. It opens the doors wider for IBM Global Services and makes it harder for third party players to get in the door.
Will it make mobile app development any cheaper? No. But if you are an IBM customer that probably doesn't matter - what matters is gaining a strategic advantage over competitors as quickly as possible while also preserving the vast investments already made in Webshpere infrastructure. With Worklight in hand IBM won't make it cheaper but it will make it easier for its customers to both protect their investments and gain that mobile-driven strategic edge.