IBM talks wireless partnerships, portal services

Among its announcements on Thursday, IBM said that its WebSphere Portal Server is ready to roll out and announced its partnership to develop wireless infrastructures for next generation wireless products with Symbian, the London-based developer of operating system software for handheld computers and wireless devices.

"Symbian and IBM will work together on developing the next stage of its software platform for next generation mobile phones. The work is centred around the whole of the infrastructure to make sure that the devices are part of that infrastructure," said Val Rahmani, IBM's newly promoted general manager for global wireless solutions.

IBM's partnerships with Symbian and with Intel, announced Wednesday, are further proof of IBM's commitment to the development of not only wireless products, but the infrastructure for wireless products, Rahmani said.

On Wednesday, Intel announced it will use IBM's embedded software in Intel's Personal Internet Client Architecture (Intel PCA) for wireless devices and other Internet appliances. Specifically, IBM will port the embedded version of its WebSphere Everyplace Suite middleware, as well as device tools, to the Intel StrongARM processor and future processors based on Intel XScale microarchitecture. "The biggest challenge for us is that all of this [wireless] has got to get a lot easier. The WebSphere Portal Server, which has been semi-rolling out but which is available now, is a good example of a simple wireless service that companies can make personal to their customer and to their employees. The software will let companies build next-generation portals that can be used wirelessly to offer users a personalized, secure and single point of access for content, applications and processes," Rahmani said.

Rahmani expects to see 50 per cent growth in the wireless market for IBM by the end of the year, from both carriers and "the other side of the enterprise customer, such as airlines and the banking industry," Rahmani said.

"People have got to start building wireless into their strategies now. The vast majority of carriers are already turning to IBM, with Vodafone being the most recent carrier to sign up for our WebSphere platform," Rahmani said.

Big Blue began making moves last year to provide consulting and integration services, as well as software products, to help companies build out their wireless computing infrastructures. According to Rahmani, that bet has already paid off. "In the last 12 months, there has been a real move away from some of the newer companies because customers want to do business with someone that they know can make wireless happen and will be there in five years time," Rahmani said.

"We are committed to the growth in wireless that we promoted last year. We have 1500 employees worldwide working on wireless and will grow to between 4000 to 6000 employees worldwide; that's about 700 new employees hired each month just to be dedicated to wireless," Rahmani said.

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Laura Rohde

PC World

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