Big Blue doesn't make a smartphone or a tablet, doesn't have its own mobile OS, and doesn't make glitzy commercials touting its mobile strategy. But IBM is quietly increasing its mobile footprint with offerings keyed to enterprise collaboration and a multiplatform strategy that features compatibility from devices running Apple's iOS, Research in Motion's BlackBerry, and Google's Android.
There's one other thing that IBM doesn't do these days: make and sell PCs. And that's one reason why its push for mobile devices is such a good strategic fit.
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In a move that underlines its emphasis on mobile computing, IBM in January named veteran software exec Kevin Cavanaugh as vice president for business and technical strategy for IBM collaboration. Two-line titles on the business card aside, Cavanaugh says his real job is to "coordinate our mobile approach across individual products for collaboration. We need consistent strategy that crosses over from product to product." Customers, he told me in an interview this week, "don't want to think about switching products when working on a small device. They want it to be transparent."
Not surprisingly, Cavanaugh talked a lot about IBM's relationship with RIM and the recent BlackBerry World shindig, which he attended: "RIM has the biggest penetration in our customer base, so it is incredibly important to us. Apple is by culture more consumer-oriented, but we make up a key reference on their site. Android, though, is a little harder to figure out the 'who': Do we partner with the device makers or the Android team at Google?"
In a 45-minute discussion, Cavanaugh didn't mention Windows Phone even once. What he had to say about Microsoft had to do with the shift away from the old PC-centric computing paradigm -- not the software giant's attempts to gain traction in the mobile market.