There are lots of companies pushing mobile integration solutions these days. Some of the generic product-category names vendors give their offerings include mobile integration platforms, mobile servers, mobile middleware and mobile gateways.
At first glance -- when getting a 5-minute sales pitch at a trade show booth, for example -- many of the products sound like they do the same thing. They all basically are software products that provide some degree of connectivity between your existing, back-end business applications (and/or Web content and e-commerce transactions) and some number of mobile devices connected to wireless networks of varying flavors.
The wireless taskforces being appointed in enterprises need to sift out the differences among these products. They must look under the covers to find the nugget of differentiation that these various software players offer. To a certain degree, many of the vendors do offer overlapping functionality. And many of the vendors fall in multiple categories. These are among the reasons that analysts are predicting consolidation in the mobile-software market.
There have been signs that consolidation is at hand, as a slew of industry players have reassessed their market positioning and business strategies over the past couple of years. Several, for example, have turned from offering wireless application hosting and gateway network services to selling enterprise software products or tools (or they have at least added a product component to complement their network service offerings). Among these vendors are Aether Systems, Air2Web, Alter Ego and Wireless Knowledge.
Several of these companies have decided that enterprises are where the early mobile dollars will lie -- empowering employees with anywhere access to corporate data -- rather than the business-to-consumer, mobile-commerce arena. Part of the reason? Many of the real business-to-consumer powerhouses -- the dot-coms -- are on financially shaky ground.