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IBM and France Telecom in Partnership to Facilitate Internet Access

Co-developed platform will boost the information society

Paris - 06 Oct 1998: ... IBM and France Telecom announced today that they have formed a partnership to revolutionise the way consumers and businesses access and use the Internet. Together, the two companies will build an open-standard software platform that will facilitate the development of a new generation of inexpensive devices, such as screenphones, that will enable Internet access in a fraction of the time it takes using conventional personal computers.

The two companies will first develop the new platform for use in France where citizens are already very familiar with on-line services and have substantial experience of electronic commerce using France Telecom's long-established Minitel services. This platform will enable many new consumers and businesses to connect screenphones and other devices to the vast array of services on the Internet, potentially making France one of the world's leading "e-societies". In addition, IBM and France Telecom will market these new Internet technologies on a worldwide basis, particularly in countries where PC costs have been a barrier to widespread Internet adoption.

"France Telecom's Internet service Wanadoo ranges first in France, and its subscribers must use personal computers. As the Net Company, our goal is to make new Internet technologies available to as wide an audience as possible, so that all our customers can benefit from the vast array of services on the web -- both in France and throughout the world", said Michel Bon, CEO of France Telecom . "As one of our most important Internet initiatives in 1998, our partnership with IBM will benefit businesses and consumers alike by creating the necessary conditions for the development of easy-to-use access devices at a reasonable price."

"Today's announcement is significant because together, IBM and France Telecom will build the world's first network platform specifically designed for a new generation of low-cost Internet access devices," said Louis V. Gerstner, Jr., chairman and CEO of IBM Corp. "This partnership represents an important milestone in the development of a truly open and pervasive e-business environment, and we look forward to extending that environment globally."

The partnership will leverage pervasive computing technologies in building an e-business environment for services such as e-mail and electronic commerce. Pervasive computing refers, in part, to an intelligent network combined with convenient easy-to-use devices. Most of the management and navigational data -- user profiles, bookmarks, security and access management applications -- is held centrally within the network. This enables users to simply and quickly access the Internet from any standard connection -- at home, in the office, wherever an appropriate device is available. In the future, these devices could be embedded into any kind of consumer equipment such as cars, television sets, or other products. It brings the world of the Internet and e-business applications within reach of those with no technology expertise or experience, and brings it to them in a live, instantaneous environment.

Both IBM and France Telecom are members of the ISRF ( Internet Screenphone Reference Forum*) which comprises more than twenty companies from telecommunications, software and consumer electronic companies, for example, Alcatel and Matra Nortel Com. The Internet screenphones will be designed to meet the ISRF standards and reference profiles. These standards establish the main functions and technical specifications of Internet screenphones - for example Java capacity - so ensuring that they are compatible and open to as many markets and manufacturers as possible. It is vital that the network uses open standards so to allow all potential service providers to offer new facilities to screenphone customers everywhere in the world.

The project, which aims to make Internet access user-friendly, will combine the skills of IBM and France Telecom in software and networking development, hardware and services.

France Telecom is one of the world's leading telecommunications carriers, with 1997 consolidated operating revenues of FF 156.7 billion, 33 million telephone lines in service and operations in more than 50 countries. In addition to local and long distance telephony, France Telecom provides businesses and consumers with data, wireless, on-line, Internet, cable-TV, broadcast and value-added services. France Telecom (NYSE:FTE) held an initial public offering in October 1997. ( http://www.francetelecom.fr)

IBM is the world's largest information technology company, with 80 years of leadership in helping businesses innovate. IBM's Pervasive Computing unit has responsibility for creating e-business solutions that leverage the new class of connected client devices such as handheld Internet appliances and screenphones. A key part of the team's mission is furthering the adoption of open industry standards for pervasive computing to help customers easily access and act on information whenever and wherever they may be. IBM IBM offers complete information about the company, its products, services and technology to Internet users throughout the World Wide Web. The IBM home page is located at http://www.ibm.com.

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* Members of the ISRF include, IBM, Lotus, Sun, Alcatel, Matra Nortel Com, Infogear, Philips Consumer Communications/Lucent, Sagem, Spyglass, Universal Microelectronics, France Telecom, Belgacom, Deutsche Telekom, KPN, NTT, Swisscom, Telenor, Telia.

Contact(s) information

Martin Harvey
IBM
+33.1.41.88.60.03
mharvey@fr.ibm.com

Gerard Merveille
France Telecom
+33.1.44.44.93.93
gerard.merveille@francetelecom.fr

Catherine Ladousse
IBM
+33.1.41.88.74.21
cladousse@fr.ibm.com

Estelle Rozine
France Telecom
+33.1.44.44.93.93
estelle.rozin@francetelecom.fr

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