IBM ups support of mobile, wireless devices

A new package of software and services from IBM will increase that company's support for the use of wireless mobile devices to keep employees connected to corporate networks, the company said.

Called the Mobile Office Entry Jumpstart solution (MOEJ), the new program is targeted at companies that want to get started with mobile computing.

For US$100,000, companies will get new versions of IBM's WebSphere Everyplace Access and Everyplace Connection Manager software as well as 50 Tungsten PDAs (personal digital assistants) from Palm and cards that enable the devices to connect to wireless networks, according to an IBM spokesman.

For small and medium-size businesses, packages containing fewer clients are also available, though no pricing information is currently available below the 50-client level, the spokesman said.

IBM WebSphere Everyplace Access is a middleware product that allows mobile devices to access enterprise applications such as back-end databases, instant messaging servers and productivity applications.

A new feature has been added to the Access product called the Intelligent Notification Services that can forward information from e-mail, supply chain or other legacy systems to a preferred mobile device, IBM said.

IBM WebSphere Everyplace Connection Manager is software that manages high speed wireless connections as users roam between private WLANs (wireless local area networks), public wireless hot spots and traditional wireline networks.

Tungsten devices will run client versions of both WebSphere applications, the spokesman said.

Lucent Technologies said that it will integrate the Connection Manager product with its own mobile high speed data products for service providers, enhancing the roaming capabilities for MOEJ customers, including voice, e-mail and data services at up to 153K bits per second, according to the spokesman.

MOEJ customers with service providers that don't use the Lucent platform will also enjoy high-speed connections, but IBM could not provide specific connection speeds for those customers.

The new service for Tungsten devices is just one of many such options IBM offers and is intended for companies that want to try out small mobile computing implementations such as e-mail and instant messaging on PDAs in advance of larger projects.

Eventually, mobile devices might be made to integrate with sales force automation technology, or reach out to other remote platforms such as automobiles using telematics or wireless kiosks, IBM said.

Most important, the WebSphere technology means that companies can introduce mobile computing without needing to change their existing IT infrastructure, according to the spokesman.

To make the whole system work, MOEJ customers purchasing the package of 50 clients will also receive consulting services from IBM's Global Services group and product support from Palm, the spokesman said.

The cost of services for customers buying smaller packages of clients will vary and can be negotiated with IBM, he said.

The MOEJ program is just part of IBM's larger effort to establish itself as a leader in what it refers to as "non-traditional" or "pervasive" computing.

With its WebSphere platform and the integration expertise in the Global Services group, IBM is at the forefront of companies offering mobile technology solutions to enterprise customers, according to Adam Zawel, an analyst at Yankee Group.

And while $100,000 contracts for mobile e-mail and instant messaging clients might sound like small potatoes for an IT services giant like IBM, the MOEJ program has the potential to serve as a starting point for much larger jobs, Zawel said.

"Obviously, IBM wants to make more from each client than $100,000. But engagements can grow in terms of the number of users and also in terms of the depth of integrations," he said.

Once the benefits of mobile computing have been realized for e-mail, IBM's Global Services group may then be tapped to adapt other mission critical enterprise applications for mobile access, or even develop brand new applications for mobile users within an enterprise, Zawel said.

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