ICL and Microsoft have announced a joint "global alliance" that will see the creation of 1,000 new jobs in Europe and a new focus on four key sectors -- retail, education, government, and enterprise infrastructure.
Launching the three-year partnership, Keith Todd, chief executive officer of ICL, said: "For years I have been moving ICL away from hardware, towards applications and services. This alliance will redefine how consumer-oriented companies interact with their customers." Todd added that the alliance will drive up ICL revenue.
Existing Unix customers are safe. Although Steve Ballmer, executive vice president of sales and support at Microsoft claimed that: "2 million NT servers will be sold in 1998, and NT is outselling Unix more than 2:1," ICL's Todd explained his company's position on Unix: "ICL will remain a supplier of Unix even though Microsoft will be our platform of choice. If a customer specifically requests Unix, we will deliver it."
ICL, with support from Microsoft, will undertake the training of more than 4,000 staff, and open seven dedicated solution centres world-wide during the period, half of these will be based in the UK. The solution centres are intended to accelerate the development and ensure the smooth development of systems running on Microsoft platforms. Three of the centres will be in the UK (Bracknell, Manchester, and Belfast), with others in Poland, Sweden, and the USA.
Neither Microsoft or ICL are releasing the financial terms and details of the alliance, though Ballmer confirmed that Microsoft's financial commitment ran into "tens of millions of dollars".
ICL will develop new systems for the four selected industries (Fujitsu/ICL is the third largest supplier of retail IT systems in the world). These will all be standardised on Microsoft's enterprise software: "This will reduce the cost and time of implementing enterprise computing solutions," Todd said. Examples include using customers' preferences to target retailer's special offers, and intra/internet solutions for schools, colleges, and libraries.
Some of the software is already being used. Marks and Spencer uses a Microsoft-based complete retail system called GlobalSTORE, which covers EpoS, inventory, and records customers' shopping habits. Future retail software will include ‘InteractiveRetailing', which will make shopping over a PC simple.
Microsoft and ICL will make a joint bid for the contract to provide the UK government with IT hardware in time for 2002. By that date, the government wants to have 25 percent of its services delivered electronically, via the internet or via public access information systems. Both companies are working on CAFExpress, based on a Microsoft platform, to win the contract.