In its bid to give the end users anything they want, IBM is adding more software platforms to its already very loaded wheelbarrow of operating systems.
It is also offering its BESTeam channel partners a full refund of the cost of achieving IBM Professional Engineer Certification.
"We are very serious about education," said Julie Yardley, IBM's channels sales manager for its software and networking business unit. "We're saying: you pass. We pay."
Yardley said the company was just as serious about offering as wide a range of platforms as the end users want and that dictates what software developers, systems integrators and resellers want.
Recent publicity on IBM's support for Windows NT could have led to the mistaken belief that Big Blue is hard at work pushing the Microsoft product.
"Far from it," said Yardley. "We're just responding to what the market wants.
"For example, we have more than 30,000 applications that run on the AS/400 platform and we are continuing to attract more new users to this platform.
"Compare that with NT for which there are 6000 applications available."
IBM has also not lost sight of its mainframe operating system, MVS. Revenues from the monthly licence charge it levies on such an operating system and associated products is increasing at about 5 per cent each year.
In between MVS and the desktop, it is also supporting its own brand of Unix and AIX together with the OS/400 operating system for the AS/400 mid-range system. And on the desktop it is still nurturing OS/2.
Moving across platforms, IBM is also offering its MQ Series of messaging-oriented middleware products for Sun's Solaris, HP's HP-UX and Digital's Open VMS.
IBM's DB2 version 2 relational database is also moving across other platforms. In addition to Windows NT, it operates on IBM's OS/2 and AIX; and Sun; Hewlett-Packard; Sinix; and SCO (Santa Cruz Operation) Unix.
Highlighting the view that IBM takes of the NT versus Unix fight were comments made on a recent visit to Australia by Jocelyn Attal, vice-president of NT marketing. "We're not in the business of selling NT," she said. "We're in the business of promoting our software on NT.
"NT still can't run mission-critical applications while Unix is scalable and can run mission- critical applications," Attal said.
About 30 per cent of servers being shipped by IBM are shipped with NT. The company expects this to rise to about 50 per cent by 2000.
Worldwide, IBM is budgeting $30 million on training in the channel. Yardley would not be drawn on how much IBM is budgeting to spend locally.
"It's a lot and our focus will be on the value channel rather than the retail channel," she said.
In the value channel, IBM segments its BESTeam partners into two levels.
At the highest level, the channel partner is expected to have at least three IBM professional engineer certifications and one IBM software specialty.
At the next level it expects to have at least one certification and one software specialty.
"My view is business partners sell what they know. If we can educate them better in our products and services it's a win/win situation.
"We're also more than happy to partner with them across several platforms - that's the way they have put together a solution for the end user."