Forget IBM’s lousy earnings report. It’s (literally) so day-before-yesterday.

Besides, the company’s cloud, analytics and Anything-as-a-Service (XaaS) offerings are gaining steam.

And though it’s tough to turn a big a ship on a dime, we’ll say this for Ginni Rometty. She’s certainly trying.

After all, Watson seems to be a whole lot smarter than Apple’s Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana. Bluemix seems to be a friendly cloud, getting cozy with Box boss Aaron Levie might get IBM in with the “in” crowd, and then there’s that Apple-IBM partnership announced one year ago…

Developers are the Kingmakers

But developers are the kingmakers in this day and age and Open Source (Editors this is capped intentionally) is their religion.

That’s why today’s news holds so much promise.

IBM has just unveiled a new initiative on developerWorks Open, a cloud-based environment for developers to access emerging IBM technologies, technical expertise and collaborate with a global network to accelerate projects.

While it might be a bit of an exaggeration to say that coders will be able to virtually walk through the gates of the hallowed IBM Lab, the folks at the company’s Armonk, N.Y. headquarters are creating a “space” free of the obstacles that might inhibit developers from turning open source code into sustainable applications that solve real business issues.

IBM hopes that developers will be drawn to the value-add that in can provide; namely,  its tried and tested knowledge of healthcare, mobile, retail, insurance and banking, a gamut of projects they can participate in and services on Bluemix, IBM’s  programming platform for cloud software development.

More specifically, IBM is open sourcing a number of apps from its MobileFirst portfolio that promise to assist developers in the healthcare, retail insurance and banking mobile markets. They include:

  • IBM Ready App for Healthcare that tracks patient progress for at-home physical therapy programs via mobile device.
  • IBM Ready App for Retail that personalizes and reshapes the specialty retail store shopping experience through direct line of communication
  • IBM Ready App for Insurance improves the relationship between homeowners and insurers and uses Internet of Things sensors to synch home with utilities.
  • IBM Ready App for Banking helps financial institution's address the mobile needs business owners and attract prospects.

But it’s not just apps that IBM will be open sourcing to the community. 

There are Analytics technologies too, such as IBM Analytics for Apache Spark, Activity Streams and an Agentless System Crawler for cloud monitoring.

With these announcements IBM hopes to attract and to win over a new breed of wildly talented and enthusiastic developers who are committed to open source and want a fast path to building real world apps that deep-pocketed companies will want to buy.

Get ’Em While They’re Young

IBM has also set its sights on 20,000 students in 36 countries via its Academic Initiative for Cloud, which includes in a variety of courses ranging from computer science, information technology, analytics and data science to mobile and entrepreneurship.

Two hundred and ten educational institutions have signed on to offer as many as  250 courses and programs that will use educational materials, technologies and methodologies from IBM with a focus on using Bluemix.

And for up and coming  mobile-app-developers developers who want to go the IBM-way but don’t attend one of the 210 schools that have signed on to the program, there’s the Student-Developer Community, which  offers free Bluemix-trial access for free, invites to hackathons and we’re told there’s more to come.

If You Build It, Will They Come?

That’s the billion-dollar question not just for IBM but for other mega vendors like Microsoft and EMC too. While coders look to these hallowed institutions with great admiration and like the idea of riding on their coattails when it’s convenient, they don’t often identify with them.

Especially when you compare them to Apache-grounded companies like Databricks and DataStax, where getting close to their rock star like founders is still possible, where the opportunities to contribute to open source code bases and  become “committers”  provide ample opportunities to go down in a project’s history and so on…

The challenge for IBM and companies like it are to win over the kingmakers and that’s almost as much about culture as it is code.