IBM seeks ISV partners

IBM last week said its future e-business software offerings will be developed in partnership with (independent software vendors) ISVs rather than by IBM flying solo.

The decision marks a major change in IBM's strategy, according to William Etherington, IBM senior VP and group executive, sales and distribution. Previously, "we felt that the only way we could go to market was a top-to-bottom inside-IBM activity", Etherington said.

Now, the company will partner with software developers in different markets and regions to deliver e-business software. The recently announced strategic partnership with Siebel Systems, a maker of sales and marketing customer service applications, to deliver customer relationship management (CRM) offerings, is just one example of IBM's new direction, according to Etherington.

IBM will partner with at least 30 ISVs, and perhaps considerably more, who will in turn gain access to IBM's 27,000-strong worldwide sales force, according to IBM.

One observer was not surprised at IBM's decision to jointly develop and market e-business software. "Basically, it's one of these 'if you can't beat 'em, join 'em' approaches," said Rob Schafer, an analyst with Meta Group.

Current Meta Group research shows that, among companies with high-end mainframe systems, just over half of the software budget is for non-IBM software, according to Schafer. By intensive partnering with ISVs, IBM will gain a piece of that revenue stream, Schafer said. More importantly, IBM will "have better influence" on what happens in the platform-brand wars between IBM, Unix and Windows NT which will heat up next quarter once the Y2K issue is put to rest, he added.