IBM readies December Web integrator blitz

After betting $65 million on Web integrator training and marketing, IBM is getting ready to up the ante. Over the next few months, Big Blue will unveil major initiatives spanning wireless computing and interactive TV, along with a push into Asia.

After betting $65 million on Web integrator training and marketing, IBM is getting ready to up the ante. Over the next few months, Big Blue will unveil major initiatives spanning wireless computing and interactive TV, along with a push into Asia, Sm@rt Partner has learned.

Part one of the plan kicks off in December, when IBM plans to announce "major additions" to its wireless strategy for Web integrators. Big Blue currently has eight to 10 partners in this area and plans to expand its wireless initiative to blanket "100 or more of the leading Web shops," says J.P. Frenza, marketing manager for IBM's Web integrator initiative. As part of the program, IBM will invite Web integrators into so-called "M-Camps" (the M, presumably, stands for mobile) for training on its wireless technologies. IBM already runs a wireless lab with Agency.com in Europe.

IBM will return for an encore in January, at which time the company will recruit Web integrators as partners in Asia. The current initiative is mostly limited to the United States and Europe.

"We're in Japan and Australia, too," notes Mark Hanny, VP of IBM's Web integrator initiative. "But we hope to roll it out into more countries in Asia in early January. Our message to Web integrators is clear: Work with us and you can work on bigger projects and increase your hourly rates on services."

In addition to Agency.com, IBM also has partnerships with Immersant, MarchFirst, Organic and several other prime-time players. Big Blue's overall Web integrator initiative currently spans about 1,000 companies, with roughly 300 located in Europe.

Meanwhile, IBM also is drawing up an interactive TV (ITV) strategy. Though ITV bombed in the United States, IBM notes that several companies--including Domino's Pizza and F.W. Woolworth--are enjoying successful ITV pushes in Europe. In fact, Big Blue points to various market research that says ITV will be a $5 billion opportunity in 2001 that will grow to $21 billion by 2006.

Still, details about IBM's ITV push are sketchy. IBM's Frenza says the company will leverage its core expertise in set-top boxes, DB2, WebSphere and other "horizontal" technologies that can be easily extended into additional markets.

To be sure, IBM's evolving Web integrator strategy faces some challenges. Some Web integrators surely will disappear or get acquired as the market matures and consolidates.

Nevertheless, IBM appears to be more upbeat than Wall Street is about Web integrators. "Wall Street certainly doesn't like the [Web integrator] earnings misses, but no analyst in the country is going to say that e-business is going away," says Hanny.

No debate there.

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