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IBM's Palmisano pledges SMB effort

At PartnerWorld 2004 in Las Vegas, IBM increased its effort to join with third parties to attack the small- and medium-sized business (SMB) market. IBM CEO and Chairman Sam Palmisano told the assembled partners that the company's push for on-demand computing is important in the quest to "get growth back in the IT industry," and part of that push is aimed at SMBs.

"We are working with partners to go after opportunities in SMB," said Palmisano, adding that, when people talk about expanding the IT industry, the SMB segment has too rarely been considered.

To improve its SMB play, IBM has forged middleware solutions for seven different industries. The solutions are designed to help customers automate and manage their business processes via libraries for process orchestration unique to each industry.

IBM's Scott Hebner, VP of marketing and strategy for ISV and developer relations, said these moves betoken a "fundamental realignment of how IBM goes to market with ISVs." Open Linux and Java are key.

"We will focus on the strength of openness through J2EE," Hebner said. Meanwhile, both Palmisano and Buell Duncan, general manager of ISV and Developer Relations, pointed to open-source Linux as an IBM differentiator in this space as well.

Clearly, its early success with Linux in the enterprise has whet IBM's appetite for success in SMBs. But here it comes up against Microsoft. IBM's Hebner claims that ease-of-use issues -- traditionally Microsoft strong points and IBM question marks -- have been met, in part thanks to IBM's purchase of Rational Software tools.

Said Hebner: "If you go back to 1999 when we rolled out tools, there was a need for a great deal of process. Today, we have a simpler environment because we have had a consistent evolution, while Microsoft has consistently changed."

There is a long way to go, some suggest. Said AMR Research Analyst Lance Travis, commenting on IBM's 'vertical middleware' moves: "Several years will pass before the benefits of the IBM strategy are widely realized, but at least IBM is headed in the right direction."

About the Author

Jack Vaughan is former Editor-at-Large at Application Development Trends magazine.

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