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A truly converted IBM

Wednesday, August 16, 2000

Venezuela – El Nacional
Author: Froilán Fernandez

According to John Patrick, responsible for IBM’s Internet strategy and known as a visionary, three momentous events marked the history of the information technology: the mass introduction of the PC in the early ’80s; the popularization of the TCP/IP protocol (the Internet Esperanto) in the early ’90s; and the consolidation of the Linux operating system starting in 1999.

The resistant to each of these breakthroughs came from predominant players interested in protecting their respective domains. The large computer companies featured mainframes and “minis” enormously more powerful than the emerging PC’s, but ultimately these changed the data-processing architecture. In 1990, many communications protocols were available to divert TCP/IP efforts; however, this lingua franca of the network of all networks became crucial for the telematics boom in the last decade, and has become the universal mother tongue.

That turn of events happened again with Linux, says Patrick. Many companies responded, “What do we need another operating system for?” At the same time they claimed to have the best environments, some pointing to their market shares and others to some evidence of technical superiority. In his presentation at Solutions 2000, a conference for software developers held in Las Vegas this week, Patrick emphasized IBM’s total support for Linux, as shown by the availability of this operating system in most of its software portfolio –including Websphere, Domino, Notes, Tivoli, and DB2. Even the blue company’s mainframe proprietary prairies were open to Linux. “Only the most profound sinners know how to repent, ” said Patrick while the audience burst into laughter.

It’s truly a new IBM, in contrast to the one that used to face antitrust proceedings and practiced extreme proprietary software and hardware policies, so popular in the ’60s and ’70s. Focusing its software strategy on middleware –integrating components that sit between applications and different platforms- and enabling companies to conduct e-business, IBM recognizes the heterogeneous world beyond its boundaries and has decided to profit from it. Of course, it will continue to sell –whenever possible– comprehensive solutions that include hardware, web-environment software, management, databases, and “wedgeware” tools.

At Solutions 2000, IBM Developer Support announced several programs to enable developers bring out their solutions faster to the market. The initiative includes independent software vendors (ISV), application service providers (ASP), and Internet-generation entrepreneurs (NetGens).

“We’re focusing on both sides of the business equation. These extended support programs for developers show our commitment to providing the tools, resources, and support required in the e-business market,” said Bob Timpson, general manager of IBM Developer Relations. The ISV’s account for one third of the 142 billion dollars sold in software worldwide, said Timpson, and have an impact on more than half the total technology market, close to one trillion dollars.

One of the major announcements made at Solutions 2000, e-business templates include a set of resources, code, and methodologies available free for the following activities: user-business, user-online shopping, business-business, user-data, and user-user. The templates also include free releases of selected test software, such as Websphere Studio, DB2, and Visual Age for Java. More information at www.ibm.com/developerworks/patterns.

IBM also announced a Websphere and Domino package offering –after being tested for integration purposes— launched as a platform for collaborative commerce.

Lotus has created a division to promote the integrated product. Arthur Fontaine, the division general manager, tells us the main objective is to shorten the purchase-delivery process for the organizations interested in the two solutions. “This integration also enables developers to design collaborative e-commerce applications in a faster and easier way,” said Lotus CEO Al Zollar while emphasizing the advantages of the collaboration tools for the B2B market. According to him, this environment calls for high- volume, greatly complex transactions making these collaborative tools indispensable for some of these transactions. “Instant messaging, up to now used massively in individual applications, will play a crucial role for businesses in the near future,” said Zollar. Lotus has an instant business messaging system called SameTime.

John Patrick also demonstrated a “translation machine” that IBM is fine-tuning in its laboratories. In real time, he conversed with a colleague in Germany who heard Patrick’s messages automatically translated into German while Patrick heard him in English.