Can IBM and AT&T Pull Off a Mobile Parternship?

ibm4The path to long-term success in today’s rapidly-evolving mobile marketplace is not necessarily to build the next great app, but to build the tools that enable others to build great apps. Running the gauntlet and creating the world’s most popular picture-sharing service is great, but companies like IBM (NYSE:IBM) and AT&T (NYSE:T) have never really been interested in negotiating directly with the nebulous world of consumer sentiment. Instead, they have built their businesses around offering a platform of hardware and services that enable others to build great things.

So when the world’s largest computer-services company and the world’s largest mobile telecom operator — IBM and AT&T, respectively — announced an “expanded relationship to provide software developers with a set of powerful new tools to create and deploy next generation mobile apps,” no one was really surprised, but everyone was excited.

AT&T is already mired in aggressive network expansion, and the company has already engaged with IBM’s Worklight as a mobile development platform. The revitalized relationship, called MobileFirst, “will enable the more than 31,000 members of the AT&T Developer Program to quickly create and securely deploy enterprise apps that improve subscriber engagement and customer loyalty.”

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“If you talked to Ginni and asked her what the key growth plays are for IBM, she would tell you mobility is one of them,” said Robert LeBlanc, IBM’s senior vice president of middleware software, in an interview with Bloomberg. He was referring to Ginni Rometty, the company’s CEO.

“We’re moving some of our skill and resources into mobility as a growth play,” added LeBlanc…