IBM's goes gaga for China; cooks up big ideas

Big Blue is big on China. First the company is joining Citigroup in a bid for Guangdong Development Bank, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Big Blue is big on China. First the company is joining Citigroup in a bid for Guangdong Development Bank, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Journal reports that if the bid is successful IBM would wind up holding 5 percent of the bank. Why is this a big deal? IBM has a huge financing operation--in fact it's large enough to be a bank to itself. Financing + China = lots of profit.

To wit:

"IBM could strengthen Citigroup's bid, because the information-technology company is highly regarded by China's government. IBM has an active practice serving Chinese banks, which are installing modern computer systems to strengthen risk controls," reports the Journal.

Elsewhere on IBM's China front, the company announced it will spend $100 million over the next two years on 10 ideas cooked up at its InnovationJam, essentially a massive brainstorming session. The announcement was made by IBM CEO Sam Palmisano in Beijing.

Here's look at IBM's big ideas and the early line on them:

--Smart Healthcare Payment Systems: IBM says it wants to overhaul "healthcare payment and management systems through the use of small personal devices (such as smart cards) that will automatically trigger financial transactions, the processing of insurance claims and the updating of electronic health records." The line: Long odds. Doctors are big on PDAs, but lining up health insurers and more importantly gluing a bunch of disparate systems together isn't easy.

--Simplified Business Engines: IBM will develop "intuitive, easy-to-use and pre-packaged set of Web 2.0 services and blade server offerings" so smaller companies can tap custom apps. The line: Isn't everyone trying to do this?

--Real-time Translation Services: Offering advanced, real-time translation capabilities across major languages as a service. The line: Not easy, but Big Blue's focus is welcome as the business goes global.

--Intelligent Utility Networks: Increasing the reliability and manageability of the world's power grids with real-time monitoring. The line: Good idea, but the utility network may not even be close to being ready for what IBM is dreaming up.

--3D Internet: "Partnering with others to take the best of virtual worlds ... for global commerce and day-to-day business operations." The line: More avatars. Ugh.

--"Digital Me": One storage service to put all of your personal stuff including digital photos, videos, music, health and financial records, personal identification documents, and files. The line: Wait until the Big Brother worrywarts get a hold of Big Blue.
--Branchless Banking for the Emerging markets: Think online banking for the developing world. The line: Let's get the developing world PCs and Net access first.
--Integrated Mass Transit Information System: Establishing on demand systems for optimizing all transit systems. The line: I smell a big FAA contract coming.
--Electronic Health Record System: The line: Needs to be done, but it's like herding cats. Fat chance.
--"Big Green" Innovations: New unit will target "emerging environmental opportunities, such as advanced water modeling, water filtration via nanotechnology and efficient solar power systems." The line: IBM hit just about every Wall Street fetish in the last two years with this one.

Editorial standards