Opinion by Jack Gold

The wider implications of IBM's mobile buying spree

Consolidation will dominate the mobile market over the next couple of years. If your enterprise is using mobile technology from a small company, expect to have to upgrade.

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IBM's announcement that it is acquiring FiberLink MaaS360 -- a company that provides a cloud-based mobile-as-a-service management and security capability to some significant enterprise customers -- is just the latest indication of seismic changes in the mobile market that have much broader implications for nearly all enterprises.

Over the past 18 months, IBM has been buying up mobile-oriented companies -- Worklight (mobile app platform), UrbanCode (app development), Trusteer (fraud detection/security). This is being done to supplement its own products (such as Endpoint Manager, Security Access Manager, Connection Manager, and of course its major infrastructure platform, WebSphere). The acquisition spree and its own homegrown products have put IBM high on the list of most capable enterprise mobile infrastructure providers, although much integration work still needs to be done to make MobileFirst a seamless offering.

So what are the broader implications of this acquisition?

First, smaller mobile technology vendors will for the most part not survive independently beyond the next two to three years. That means enterprises that have products installed from the many niche vendors need to look at the long-term implications and be ready to upgrade. As with all consolidating markets, some smaller vendors may remain in play for a number of years, but their ability to grow will be severely curtailed and their products will likely stagnate.

Next, the big players will continue to consolidate the mobile market and buy more technology, especially related to security. This means your current vendor of choice may ultimately end up being part of IBM, SAP, Oracle, Cisco, Microsoft, Citrix or some other major player. Many have already acquired mobility-based products, and most will continue to acquire more. Those smaller vendors not acquired will have a difficult future.

Third, mobile is no longer a niche market. Mobile has gone mainstream, and integrating mobility into all aspects of a company's operations is key to long-term success. All the large infrastructure vendors know this and are rapidly moving in that direction. The time when they could ignore mobility as a niche play that wasn't big enough to be noticed is over.

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