At IBM, the M Stands for Mobile (Business)

In an effort to ensure that its hardware and software products play a central role in the burgeoning wireless application market, IBM has announced partnerships with eight leading Internet services firms to help build and deliver mobile e-commerce solutions. The partnerships are the latest endeavor of IBM's Pervasive Computing Group and Web Integrator Initiative, both focused on developing and promoting the company's wireless and Web-based hardware and software, including those built around the AS/400 platform, WebSphere, and MQSeries middleware.

"All of these companies share our view that wireless computing is a booming industry. We predict that wireless will be a $230 billion business in several years."
Dubbed the Pervasive Computing Alliance, the technical support and marketing initiative, announced in June, teams IBM with Agency.com Ltd., Answerthink Consulting Group Inc., Luminent Worldwide Corp., Organic Inc., R/GA, Rare Medium Group Inc., Razorfish Inc. and US Interactive Inc. The companies will work closely with IBM and use its wireless computing technology to develop content and services for mobile devices such as cellular phones and PDAs.

Initially, the partners will base their products on IBM's WebSphere Everyplace Suite, server software that includes tools for developing applications that connect wireless devices to the Web and enterprise data. Scheduled to ship in September on AIX, Microsoft Windows and Linux, Everyplace Suite features the WebSphere Transcoding Publisher, which "translates" Web data on the fly into a format that can be read from handheld devices. Everyplace Suite also features Tivoli Subscription Manager, which tracks and manages handheld devices, and supports multiple wireless protocols, including Wireless Application Protocol (WAP). The suite also includes data synchronization software to keep data current across multiple devices.

IBM officials say they chose to partner with these companies because they have significant Web integration consulting and integration services in place, and they have already deployed Internet-based solutions on IBM hardware, including AS/400s, RS/6000s and Netfinity servers. According to IBM, the companies collectively generated 1999 revenues of more than $1 billion for Web design, consulting and integration services. And each partner has committed to develop at least 50 percent of its wireless applications using IBM middleware.

"All of these companies share our view that wireless computing is a booming industry. We predict that wireless will be a $230 billion business in several years, and account for 60 percent of all Web transactions," says Brent Miller, a senior software engineer with IBM's Pervasive Computing Group. "Even a company of IBM's size can't provide every aspect of wireless e-business. Our focus is on providing the middleware solution that we believe is the most comprehensive available, namely, the WebSphere Everyplace Suite."

Although the Everyplace Suite will not be available for OS/400, Miller said that the Web integration partnerships will affect users who seek to access AS/400-based data from mobile devices. By using features in the WebSphere Transcoding Publisher, for example, PDA users can access ERP application data residing in a DB2 database on the AS/400.

In exchange for using IBM hardware and software to develop a portion of their wireless applications, the partners will get IBM-sponsored training sessions and joint marketing and business development programs. IBM will give the companies early release versions of its software so they can begin building solutions sooner than their competitors. In addition, they get an inside track to IBM's technical support services, research centers and customer base.

Several of the partner companies plan to build wireless computing "labs," where they can showcase IBM's Internet hardware and software for their clients. The demonstration centers will contain AS/400s and other IBM servers running WebSphere, DB2 databases, MQSeries middleware, and other products to show clients how wireless computing solutions work.

"WebSphere Everyplace Suite and IBM hardware and software will be an integral part of our R&D lab, which will feature at least one AS/400 as one of our reference architectures," says Minerva Hobbs, a VP at Answerthink. "We don't want to reinvent the wheel every time we develop a wireless application, and with the AS/400 running WebSphere, MQSeries, and DB2, and the Transcoding Publisher running on a Netfinity platform, we'll have all the necessary code and components in place. You shouldn't have to recreate AS/400 data on another server every time to want to access WAP."

Hobbs says that Answerthink will use Everyplace Suite to develop mobile applications that will allow users of wireless devices to access mission-critical distribution and inventory applications, e-mail, or ERP software over the Web.

"One key to our partnership with IBM is that our customers can build mobile applications on hardware and software they already have. They don't need to buy new servers and software just because they're moving to m-commerce," says Hobbs.

Agency.com also plans to help its clients develop mobile applications that are linked to corporate data.

"Our goal is to say to our customers, 'If you have an AS/400 or RS/6000, we have the capability to develop mobile computing applications on the platforms,'" says Ritesh Patelle, chief technology officer at Agency.com. "The alliance with IBM will help us create mobile e-commerce solutions, such as business-to-business supply-chain management and procurement applications, but it'll also allow us to create something that's a piece of a company's mission-critical applications, such as human resources management. In today's 'self-service corporation,' users can access their benefits information, and that's often stored in an AS/400 database."

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    Related Information:

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