IBM Corp.’s new hosting capabilities to support the BlackBerry platform will mean users of the device will have access to more applications like business intelligence software from Cognos, which was acquired last year by IBM.
BlackBerry users can now use Cognos 8 Go software, a version of IBM’s BI tool built specifically for the BlackBerry.
The motivation behind RIM providing a development platform for the BlackBerry is so that companies like IBM can build products “in a very mobile way for knowledge workers, executives, mobile workers to be able consume the data,” said Jeff McDowell, vice-president of global alliances with RIM.
Accessing data from applications while sitting at a desktop is markedly different from being on the move, said McDowell. “You’re usually in a hurry, you’re going somewhere, you’ve only got one hand operational because you’re holding your briefcase or maybe a tall latte, and you need to be able to access your data quickly in a few clicks,” he said.
And, accessing mobile business intelligence is not just for the company executive anymore, said McDowell, it’s useful for any knowledge worker to be able to access data required to do their job more effectively.
Having access to applications tailored for the mobile platform complements a mobile Web trend where daily use of mobile devices outnumbers landlines, said Michael Azzi, manager for the emerging technology communications with IBM.
“We want our software to be there and be of use to people. People need richer functionality when they’re relying more and more on their handheld devices,” he said.
The differences between the Cognos 8 desktop version and the Cognos 8 Go mobile have more to do with report creation than report consumption. Azzi explained that there will be minimal difference when viewing reports on the BlackBerry, thereby allowing users to make decisions based on the data. However, the capability to create reports will be limited – not that users would want to do that sort of task on a handheld device, he said.
RIM also recently announced a partnership with SAP AG to co-develop, a CRM tool for BlackBerry users. The company plans to work beyond CRM to offer its users access to other business applications from SAP, said McDowell. Knowledge garnered from that partnership, he added, will be further applied to RIM’s development platform “so those innovations that we’re coming up with are being baked back into the platform so that when any other CRM, ERP, BI vendor wants to do something creative, all that functionality will be available.”
McDowell said he wouldn’t exactly characterize RIM’s numerous partnerships with application vendors like IBM as a strategy to stay competitive, rather it’s more like “continuing to build out our penetration and our popularity as an enterprise solution.”
The partnership with IBM specifically grants RIM a new channel focused on the enterprise, said McDowell. “It’s tough to find a better enterprise sales channel than IBM. So now that they’re going to market with the RIM solution, it certainly increases the customers’ ease of discover of these solutions.”
Moving forward, said Azzi, IBM will continue to partner with RIM “even more than we have”. IBM already works with all the leading device makers to embed its software, said Azzi, refusing to disclose specific plans around additional software going mobile: “We’re very much an open partner. Let’s just say we’ll continue to partner with the leaders.”
According to Michelle Warren, senior research analyst with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group, the partnership is a win for both IBM and RIM. Users typically set the tone for enterprise adoption of devices and the BlackBerry is a preferred technology among users and IT departments, she said. Furthermore, IBM technology is a favourite among large enterprises.
“This is a really neat way for both companies to solidify their presence within large enterprises,” said Warren. She added that the corporate space is RIM’s bread and butter and although the company should keep an eye on the device side, the real value is the applications that reside on the device.
Microsoft Corp., she noted, is “nipping at the heels” of RIM with its Windows Mobile devices.
As for the form factor of the handheld, Warren said Cognos 8 Go software would naturally be tailored to accommodate the smaller screen and keypad. Actually, she predicts that handhelds featuring larger screens will begin to appear in the near future to tackle the issue of limited viewing capability.