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New IBM MobileFirst services aim to jumpstart mobile app dev

IBM delivered several new products and services to aid in building and deploying mobile applications, including customizable IBM Ready Apps.

LAS VEGAS -- Help is out there for businesses struggling to go mobile.

IBM shops in particular have several new products and services available to aid them in building and deploying mobile applications. Big Blue has released standardized, customizable IBM Ready Apps for customers in major verticals, so these companies won’t have to reinvent the wheel to create their own apps.

IBM also plans to open 18 development studios worldwide, where its experts will work with customers to custom-build new apps.

IBM’s new offerings, presented here this week at the IBM Impact conference, aim to jumpstart mobile app development among the many organizations that acknowledge they can’t go it alone.

In 2012, the New York Police Department relied on developers from IBM’s consulting services to build a Web app to help its Emergency Service Unit staff respond to incidents more quickly.

“At that time it was totally new to us, and we needed someone to kind of walk us through it,” said Deputy Chief Ruben Beltran, the NYPD’s commanding officer for IT. “It’s something that we’re looking to get more people trained on.”

Starter apps do the app dev heavy lifting

Ten IBM Ready Apps are out now, and about 50 will be available by the end of the year, the company said. Customers buy the source code, which provides the user interface and connections to common back-end systems, and then develop the rest on IBM’s Worklight mobile app platform.

The idea of providing businesses with these kinds of starter apps is not new; several companies that already do it exhibited their products here. Cognizant, for example, sees a lot of interest from businesses that don’t have the in-house skills to develop apps for all the different mobile platforms in use today, said Vivek Agarwal, a director with the Teaneck, New Jersey-based IT consulting company.

“The business and IT are not used to such elaborate tasks,” he said.

Most of Cognizant’s offerings are customer-facing and not for in-house employees.

“It’s where the competitive pressure is,” Agarwal said.

Some IBM Ready Apps will be customer-facing, and others will be for an organization’s own end users. These business-to-employee apps can also provide a competitive advantage by improving existing business processes, said Phil Buckellew, vice president of IBM MobileFirst.

The first batch of IBM Ready Apps includes an app to help retail employees track their productivity and manage in-store inventory, and another that lets teams of physicians coordinate patient care. Other verticals the company plans to target include banking, insurance, government, telecommunications and transportation.

IBM MobileFirst gets personal

IBM’s more hands-on approach to helping companies with mobile app development comes in its new MobileFirst studios. Developers, architects and consultants from IBM will work with customers on every aspect of the app dev lifecycle.

Customers in the studios will be able to use the IBM Ready Apps, Worklight, the BlueMix cloud app platform and the Cloudant database as a service. The 18 studio locations include eight in North America, four in Asia, four in Europe, one in Australia and one in Brazil.

IBM did not disclose pricing information about the IBM Ready Apps or the MobileFirst studios.

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