IBM Aims to Simplify IT Delivery for SMB Customers

New Initiative Offers Web 2.0 Platform -- and a New Choice -- for Software and Solution Firms

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LOS ANGELES & IBM Business Partner Leadership Conference - 01 May 2008: -- IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced new software and unveiled for the first time a broad initiative to combine hardware, software and services to tackle the cost and complexity of IT for small and medium businesses. The new, strategic initiative -- code-named the "Blue Business Platform" -- aims to provide a new and compelling choice to simplify IT delivery for companies that lack the time and resources to manage computer systems.

The initiative, which is part of IBM's ongoing plans to aggressively target its largest opportunity for growth in the $500 billion SMB marketplace, is focused on enabling thousands of software and solution providers to dramatically accelerate the adoption and simplify the management of their business applications on IBM systems.

This new, open platform, which will be piloted and delivered in the coming months, will offer software and solution providers access to new customers on a global scale and reduce the high costs of new client acquisition, technology integration and support.

The first step in this strategic initiative is IBM Lotus Foundations Start, the first in a family of servers for small businesses planned for general availability in the second quarter. Lotus Foundations Start includes e-mail, security, backup and recovery features, and is an ideal solution for small businesses with little or no IT support. It can be deployed in under 30 minutes and provides the essential collaboration software required to power a small business.

Next, IBM is recruiting software and solution providers to participate in the "Blue Business Platform" to integrate their software with a new application toolkit and online marketplace that will be piloted later this year:

For more details on how business partners can participate in the "Blue Business Platform" initiative, IBM is hosting educational sessions for hundreds of software and solution providers later this month.

Technology innovation has been a key factor in expanding the reach of small businesses, making it one of the fastest growing segments of the global economy. Today's announcement provides application providers and resellers an open platform on which they can reach new customers and grow their businesses.

The requirements of smaller businesses are unique. They need to be as fast and responsive as enterprise companies, but are limited by smaller IT staffs and fewer integration capabilities. They want integrated solutions that are easy to use and manage. A recent study by Forrester states that the channel influences more than 90 percent of IT purchasing decisions in the SMB market. Given these requirements, building and enabling a global partner ecosystem continues to be a key route to market for IBM.

Understanding these requirements, IBM has identified one million clients worldwide that it wants to target more aggressively with its business partners to deliver pre-integrated business solutions that are easy to deploy and manage.

Whether clients start small with a pre-integrated appliance server or gain real-time access to an online category of business solutions that meet their business needs, IBM aims to provide SMBs with innovative solutions that simplify their IT experience.

Enabling Smaller Businesses With Complete Solutions

IBM Lotus Foundations Start is a complete collaboration solution for businesses with five to 500 employees who have limited or no in-house technical resources.

Delivered as an on-premise software server that will be offered primarily through IBM Business Partners, this software offering will include the Lotus Notes and Domino mail and collaboration platform, file management, directory services, firewall, back-up and recovery, anti-virus, anti-spam and Lotus Symphony office productivity tools.

A complete, out-of-the box solution designed to get businesses up and running quickly, Lotus Foundations Start maximizes business productivity with minimal IT hassle. It is an appliance server that a small business can launch within 30 minutes with self-managing features that minimize the need for human intervention. Pre-loaded with tools that smaller businesses really use, Lotus Foundations Start is also designed to accommodate growth. Customers will be able to easily add more users or servers as needed. The software also gives business partners the opportunity to build a new business with a turnkey solution.

An early release program for Lotus Foundations Start is now available for select business partners and customers using an IBM Web ID/password here.

Accelerating Business Partner Growth

The "Blue Business Platform" aims to provide Business Partners -- including ISV's, resellers and system integrators -- with access to a broader range of global clients and simplified integration capabilities, helping save time and money.

IBM will open its Global Innovation Centers to enable software providers to standardize their applications to the Application Integration Toolkit. By enabling applications to this standard platform, clients can gain access to pre-integrated solutions that combine business partner applications with IBM's software and hardware offerings, including WebSphere, POWER and BladeCenter Systems.

As part of today's news, IBM is working with its business partners to launch more than 250 Business Partner Innovation Centers, enabling faster access to IBM technology, technical assistance and on-site support.

The company is also opening eight new IBM Innovation Centers in South Africa, Turkey, Ukraine and several other emerging markets, providing business partners with technology resources, incentives, and sales and marketing opportunities to help make their businesses more profitable.

IBM will also offer its global business partners the opportunity to showcase their solutions through a new Global Application Marketplace. In less than four easy clicks, clients can gain access to a range of business solutions through an online catalog, based on their geographic locations and business needs. This sets the stage for IBM's future online marketplace that will provide smaller businesses with a single source from which to research, acquire and manage IT solutions in a few simple steps on the Web.

Today's announcement builds on IBM's industry-leading portfolio of SMB offerings, business partner programs and customer support services organized under its Express Advantage strategy. Earlier this week, for example, IBM announced the availability of new IT security solutions, business continuity offerings and POWER6™ processor-based servers all designed, developed and priced for the mid-market.

The "IBM Blue Business Platform" Initiative

The "Blue Business Platform," is a code-name for an innovative technology roadmap and delivery platform that IBM will pilot throughout 2008. The cross-company initiative aims to provide an online marketplace as well as local on-premise delivery to radically simplify the way smaller businesses buy, access and manage technology solutions from IBM and its business partners.

For more details on how business partners can participate in the "Blue Business Platform" initiative, IBM is hosting educational sessions for hundreds of software and solution providers later this month. More details can be found here.

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