mobile history

IBM Mobility is far and away “The” Leader in Gartner’s 2015 Magic Quadrant for Managed Mobility Services!
The Third Year in a Row as the Leader,    Read the 28 October Gartner 2015 Report!

We didn’t get there overnight !  Follow the adventure below:
In the early 1990’s Mobility meant having a 300 Baud, 600 Baud to 19.2kbps modem attached to the desktop computer at home or simply having a laptop computer. By early mid 1990’s it was having a Modem attached to a Laptop. By the late 90’s very early 2000’s it was a modem built in to a laptop or a high speed portable modem 64kbps. This was followed by 2 way pagers, better laptops and notebooks, cellular and WiFi connectivity,  Personal Digital Assistants PDA’s, Smartphones, Tablets to today’s wearables (watches, fitness devices) and more.

Note: in 1998, 2 way pagers included the precursor to the Blackberry, the Research In Motion, Inter@ctive Pagers 800 and  950. These devices replaced the large devices with the nickname “Bricks” carried by IBM field service personnel.  The first BlackBerry being the 850 and 950 versions of the same device.   Additionally, these pagers and BlackBerry’s ran on the Motient network (formerly Ardis Network) originally designed and Implemented by Motorola for IBM in the early 1980’s.

My first entry into mobility as part of my career was around 1994 writing the Technical documentation for a series of PCMCIA Modems for the IBM Thinkpads for the IBM PC Company, while a sister department in Boca Raton was working with BellSouth on the “Simon” phone and a PCMCIA CDPD wireless Modem.  The Simon Personal Communicator was the first cellular phone to include telephone and PDA features in one device.  By the late 90’s I was an architect getting IBM’s new Lotus Domino Application domains up and running.

Shortly after being up all night for Y2K,  we attended Lotusphere 2000.  The highlight of which was was a matching “Bumblebee” black and yellow “AS/400” with “Lotus Mobile Services for Domino” using an “AT&T PocketNet” phone.    The AS/400 team donated a server, we acquired a few PocketNet phones from AT&T and made the mobile phone connect to  Lotus mail.  Eight lines of 20-character text and a Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) browser—yes, that made us giddy to have a phone to access mail and contacts back in 2000.

The MES team was Born, While they didn’t know exactly where this kind mobility belonged, IBM understood the need for a dedicated team of specialists to focus on managed mobility services even then.  It was different from the days of actually developing Servers, PC’s and related adapters ,  This time we didn’t have to engineer a physical part of the AS/400—I didn’t make the phone and didn’t even write any of the software.  All I did was make it all work together. It seems easy now to describe it with the pictures above; however, in the last decade mobility has become much more complicated.

At the time we were also working with the new class of devices, personal digital assistants (PDA’S), Palm Pilot and Compaq iPAQ where you could only sync your mail calendar and contacts via a cable the serial port of your computer or by using the infrared port of the IBM “WorkPad”.  Infrared port could also get the device over the air (OTA) connectivity with and Ericson phone and GPRS network.
Additionally, we were working with pager gateways for 2 way messaging on a new class of pagers with keyboards, some of which folded up and we called “Clamshell” pagers.
In 1999, RIM introduced the the First BlackBerry for Microsoft Exchange mobile e-mail.

The MES team was also looking at services, the first was (BBMC),  BBMC was integrated Electronic messaging (Email and IM), Voice Messaging,  A Virtual assistant (voice to text, listen to mail and calendar), Fax gateway, Wireless access and paging, finally Collaboration,  by individual monthly subscription as early as the year 2000.  BigBlueMail was an integration of IBM divisions and external partners, Server Group was providing RS6000’s preloaded with’s MobileMail. The IBM voice Group and IBM Research were providing Voice and Intelligent assistant (which could already provide access to Profs mail and calendar by voice command). Newly acquired Lotus was providing Sametime for IM and Quickplace for collaboration.  Unfortunately, we were too far ahead of the curve.  BBMC as an individual monthly subscription essentially meant a consumer or very small business market and IBM’s systems were not designed for monthly credit card billing, among other things and BBMC was put on the shelf.
Selecting either of the images will bring up the plasma ball that was at one time located at the address (Note: Depending on the browser you may have to open BigBlueMail.swf from the browser downloads.) 

Then came 9/11.…..The NYC Mayors office and the American Red Cross needed communications capability to their people on the streets. RIM volunteered to provide the BlackBerry SW and BlackBerry devices, IBM volunteered servers and people.  This MES Team member was on vacation at the time and with planes just starting to fly again was driving his rent-a-car from Connecticut back home to FL, Several people from the MES team at the IBM Wireless Pilot Center in Charlotte, NC, flew to NYC. There surrounded by men in Uniforms carrying machine guns IBM and RIM Engineers set up the BlackBerry Enterprise Servers (BES). When others had given up for the night, RIM and IBM MES engineers stayed and got the BlackBerry server operational and talking to devices.  Over the next few weeks they provisioned and handed out devices to the Mayors office, City employees and Red cross workers.

The Blackberry and real mobile email was the first enterprise game changer. Initially running on Paging networks, Mobitext and Motient, over time BlackBerry’s supported Motient, Cingular networks at 19.2kbps.    Originally the BlackBerry 85x’s and 95x’s were relatively large black text, data only devices from 2 carriers.  Today as others they are also sleeker and faster phones and tablets with graphics engines powerful enough to stream movies and video in real time

At the time, Then the BlackBerry only supported Microsoft Exchange, and the MES tream could only support IBM customers.  From where we started deploying the BlackBerry solution to enterprises, state governments, even the US House of representatives.  After establishing the servers, the US House IT team took over management.   However, the Mobile Enterprise Services team was one of the best kept secrets in IBM.  No one knew IBM was in the Mobility Business.

However, also at the time, the BES Server Software has only worked with BlackBerry devices.   As such there were other solutions for other devices from JP Mobile, Excellenet, Afaria, iAnywhere (to name a few) that let the PalmPilot, Ipaq synch mail -Initially via cable then by cellphone enabled sleds the device connected into. The Palm device was integrated into a phone and carriers produced phones with the WAP protocol.

About 2002-3 WAP was to be the answer to support internet and web applications such a mobile Email, Stocks, News Etc. During this time,IBM developed several products for the enterprise,  Websphere Everyplace Wireless Gateway (more recently known as Lotus Mobile Connect) for secure access to corporate networks.  Websphere Transcoding Publisher, which would transform/transcode a standard HTML website to be rendered to the screen of a particular device.  Todays modern smartphones and tablets have browsers that support native HTML and some sites detect the mobile browser and provide web pages designed for smaller screens.

Except for Lotus Mobile Connect which was the precursor to the AT&T connect we are familiar with today these other solutions, of the day fell out of favor.  At the time and for several years the BlackBerry was the main, some would say the only, game in town for the mobile enterprise, including IBM.

While many mobile fortune 500 companies already standardized on Blackberry, the base grew larger in late 2002-3. RIM introduced BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) 2.0, with Lotus Domino mail support and IBM began a limited use of the BlackBerry internally.  BES 4.0 was the first BES release to support multiple Lotus Notes domains, allowing IBM US, Canada, Europe and others to provide BlackBerry services internally in IBM.   With the release BES 4.1 including support for IBM’s DB2, IBM’s use expanded and standardize on the Blackberry including it in the “Corporate Managed Program”.  BlackBerry peaked at IBM with over 40K devices Globally by 2014.   BlackBerry would dominated the enterprise market until approximately 2012.

In 2004, the MES team embarked on another, ahead of its time” project, e-Device Management, It was more Device Life Cycle Management than an MDM. EDM included processing inital device requests, Procurement, Pre-delivery preparation and returns via a depot, deployment, inventory/asset management ending with device refresh and disposal.  As such, EDM looks very similar to today’s Mobile Telecom Expense Management Services (without the Expense portion).  While this project too was shelved it did result in the team receiving a patent for “Wireless Device Configuration Management”,  US Patent  Number US8,180,860.

Including a few game changers, over the next several years, carriers were constantly coming out with new (non BlackBerry) phones that CEO’s wanted to use to get their mail. Enter Nokia, LG, Motorola, Samsung … Devices and Mobile Messaging Applications such as Exchange ActiveSync, Lotus Traveler, Good Technology and Mobile Device Management vendors such as MobileIron, Airwatch, Fiberlink….

The Game began to change in 2007, in  January, the first Android Phone ships and Apple announces a new iPod with a Phone called the IPhone to ship in June 2007.  By June 2008 IPhone had sold 6 million units in 4 countries,  by late  2009 7.7 million android phones had been activated.  The Era of “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) born but not embraced by enterprise IT.  BYOD being the practice of allowing an employee to purchases their own device, carrier service and use on the corporate network.  This produced legal and security issues to name a few and eventually led to an evolution in MDM’s to provide separate secure areas on devices for personal and corporate data.

The Game changed again in 2010, Apple announced the iPad in April 2010, Samsung followed with the first Android Tablet – the 7″ Galaxy Tab in Sept 2010.  At the Consumer Electronics Show in Jan 2011, 80 Vendors Demoed tablets to compete with the iPad.   The Consumer Era of BYOD was in full swing.  Enterprise BYOD was reluctantly tolerated as enterprises attempted to ensure security as well as deal with the legal implications (wiping an employees personal device).   But as Apple and Android were still targeting consumer use, the BlackBerry was still the device of choice of Enterprise IT.

At first IOS and Android were very consumer oriented operating systems and devices.  There were not a lot of options for enterprises to secure the devices or manage personal and private use, data and applications.   To increase enterprise adoption Apple/Android began to add security policies and API’s for Mobile Device Management.  To Drive their device sales into the enterprise.  Samsung, an Android Smartphone and tablet manufacturer added  “Samsung Safe” and “Knox” management extensions to the “Samsung Galaxy”  family of devices to give enterprises more control.

Coupled with the technology changes and some major Blackberry outages, Enterprises sought alternatives to BlackBerry.  As MDM providers began to support IOS and Android device management Enterprises began to embrace BYOD.  Good and MobileIron also offered Secure enterprise eMail, Calendar and Contacts, soon becoming viable alternatives to Blackberry.  Fiberlink, Airwatch, SOTI and others soon followed.  Even Samsung created SAFE API extensions  to allow greater Enterprise MDM capability for its Galaxy products.  However, None of the MDM’s supported Blackberry 10, helping to erode the BlackBerry base.

While many companies stayed with BlackBerry or added IOS/Android alongside BlackBerry, by late 2012, a general move away from BlackBerry to IOS/Android and BYOD was in full swing.  This included IBM.  In 2010, IBM began allowing the use of Android and IOS devices.  Initially using Traveler, then IBM Endpoint Manager (IEM) was introduced to manage the devices. The IBM Corporate Managed program also began to offer IOS/Android devices as options for employees.  The IBM products were replaced and devices managed by the IBM acquired Fiberlink MaaS360.  Opting for a mostly IBM infrastructure using MaaS360, now IBM Mobile Protect, IBM internal BES5 and legacy java based Blackberry device support closed at the end of 2014.  As of Oct, 2015, IBM supports BES 12 for approximately 1500 Global users in production and operates a Blackberry test environment out of Canada.

Late Breaking news Sept 2015 BlackBerry acquired Good Technology with the goal to provide a unified BlackBerry/IOS/Android mobility solution. Assumed to be Goods Container and App Management, BlackBerrys MDM and Good Boxtone Monitoring..

Through the years the IGS/GTS MES team has been supporting IBM mobile accounts for custom deals and with standardized Managed Mobility Portfolio offerings for Exchange ActiveSync, Lotus Traveler and Good Technology, MobileIron, Airwatch, Afaria, Lotus Mobile Connect and, of course, IBM MobileProtect (formerly Fiberlink MaaS360) .  The original MES team members now working in a variety of GTS and other IBM organizations.

With the rise in mobile specific technologies, for smartphones and tablets including those below a revolution began;

  • Processors, faster more powerful Battery efficient;
  • Screens, with sizes of small and large phones and tablet, Finger, mult-ifinger touch and pressure sensing,
  • Graphics engines (chipsets) capable of producing lifelike images, Photos and HD quality video
  • Wireless communications from the original CDPD to todays Bluetooth Wifi and  4th Generation and LTE cellular technologies which can stream Music, Video

All of these technology advances have driven a revolution beyond the enterprise mail and have had influence in the incorporation of IBM’s MobileFirst strategy in industries.

  • Driving in Medicine, the delivery of healthcare.
  • How we communicate, email “sent from my mobile device”, IM,Twitter, Instagram, Facetime, Skype…
  • Retail,  How we shop, Retailers offer tablets to show patrons what they might look like in clothing, offers and coupons based on your proximity to an establishment
  • Entertainment, How we watch or don’t watch TV and Movies via NetFlix, Hulu and other On Demand Services.
  • How we read, Kindle, tablets on airplanes have replaced bulky manuals, Tablets and Laptops have replaced books at universities.
  • Banking and how we pay bills. Tellerless windows.  I recently obtained a Home Equity loan, everthing was on-line/mobile including providing some materials by emailing a photo of documentation  taken on an iPad and only visiting the bank to sign the final legal documents
  • IOT (Internet of Things) has changed the way farmers manage crops, Elevators and other equipment are monitored for failure, Sensors in Automobiles….innovation is exploding in this area including IBM’s Long Range Signal Control protocol for the management of Device/Thing radio end to end communications.

It would be difficult to find an industry untouched by mobile technologies

As such, In early 2013 IBM formally adopted the “IBM MobileFirst” Brand as  a mobile strategy that enables clients to streamline and accelerate mobile adoption. IBM MobileFirst was combined in the CAMS Strategy using IBM’s industry expertise with Cloud, Analytics/”Big Data” Mobile and Social technologies to help organizations capture new markets and reach more people.

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