IBM is diving head first into mobile — yesterday it announced the acquisition of a leading mobile messaging vendor Xtifiy, and it even released its IBM Institute for Business Value study showcasing the value of mobile the same day.

This acquisition adds to IBM’s Smarter Commerce offering and makes its MobileFirst portfolio more robust through enhanced one-to-one communication and customer relevancy. But what does it mean for marketers?

In the short term:

  • IBM keeps moving towards a one-stop shop. We like IBM’s solutions – its MobileFirst solution was even ranked a Leader in our Forrester Wave™: Enterprise Mobility Services, Q1 2013. So, a strong partner adding a mobile messaging pure play to the mix benefits everyone in the short term: Xtify increases the scale of its offering, IBM can pitch an integrated solution, and customers get to reduce their procurement load. And combine Xtify’s messaging with IBM’s soon-to-be-launched Presence Zones and IBM has an especially attractive retail suite.
  • Marketers still have their pick of messaging vendors. This acquisition won’t significantly ripple the mobile marketing partner landscape today. Marketers, you still have a myriad of messaging pure-plays to work with (for now), such as Vibes and Urban Airship. And while all-in-one solutions like IBM’s seems so tempting and simple, keep working with pure-plays if you fall into one of these buckets: 1) mobile beginners — you still need to learn the basics, so looking at mobile capabilities in a silo can help you learn which mobile levers impact your bottom line, and 2) mobile experimenters — if you’re looking to push the boundaries with mobile and see how you can take messaging in a new direction, you will want a more agile partner.

In the long term:

  • Don’t let aggregated solutions make your mobile marketing lazy. IBM has invested more than $6 billion in cloud-related acquisitions and 3.5 billion in its Smart Commerce offering, and shows no sign of slowing down. But in the long term, IBM will have to prove that it can not only acquire these companies but also keep – and build upon – those companies’ value. Whether Xtify can survive its integration across the portfolio while remaining innovative and best-in-class remains to be seen. And be careful, marketer: Don’t get lazy and simply rely on IBM to set your strategy across all mobile tactics.
  • The wave of acquisitions continues. Let’s be honest — the mobile marketing landscape today is messy and complicated. We have everything from traditional agencies building out mobile solutions to pure-plays popping up everywhere. Consolidation of the landscape has to happen, and it will only help push forward mobile marketing by boosting standardization, best practices, and partner management. So following Adobe’s acquisition of Neolane, Facebook’s acquisition of Parse, and now IBM’s acquisition of Xtify — look for this wave of mobile pure-play acquisitions to continue.

So what should marketers do about this? Continue as planned for now, hone your mobile expertise with best-in-class partners, and hope for a future with a simplified partner landscape and elevated value of mobile in the marketing mix.