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IBM plans Web media initiative

Big Blue intends to give its huge installed base a jolt of multimedia support.

First came an embrace of network computing. Then came a full-throttle rush to develop Java-based tools and software. Now Big Blue intends to give its huge installed base a jolt of multimedia support.

IBM will announce a new initiative at next week's PC Expo called "e-media" that is focused on delivering audio, video, and graphics within its software for electronic commerce or education and training settings, among others.

The effort is intended to spur use of advanced technologies within interactive e-commerce Web sites or internal corporate networks, or intranets, according to IBM executives.

"Media is going to be an ingredient customers want to see," said Bill Pence, director of development within IBM's Internet media division.

Included in the multimedia drive is a new applications server, called WebSphere, due to ship at the end of this month. The new software, as reported last month, is intended for developers who want to build Web-based applications. New support for audio, video, and panoramic images is forthcoming for the new software, executives added.

A new version of LearningSpace, a Domino-based application from Lotus Development, will allow managers to access and manage a variety of streaming audio and video content, like that housed on server software built by Real Networks.

The new LearningSpace software, called version 2.6, will be released in the second half of this year.

IBM executives said the company's e-commerce packages would also soon include Java-based tools to allow online customers to experience a higher level of interaction with the product they are buying, such as viewing and rotating a virtual representation of an item of clothing, for example.