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AT&T signs up high-profile partners for software initiative

AT&T will tomorrow announce EMC, Sun Microsystems, IBM and Cisco Systems have signed up for its effort to promote rented business software delivered via the Internet.

AT&T plans to announce it has signed up EMC, Sun Microsystems, IBM, Cisco Systems and others as partners in its effort to promote rented business software delivered via the Internet.

Qwest and other telecommunications companies have been trying to convince corporations that it's best to rent access to complex software from "application service providers," or ASPs, instead of running the software on internally housed systems. The ASP market is nascent, but telecommunications players hope for new revenues from selling access to the high-speed networks that will connect customers to ASP technologies.

AT&T plans to certify the partners' hardware for use in Ma Bell's "Ecosystem for ASPs" plan, which the company will announce tomorrow, sources said.

The initiative marks the latest step in AT&T's campaign to reinvent itself as an Internet-focused network provider, rather than a long-distance telephone company. Its acquisitions of high-speed cable TV networks have moved toward this goal on the consumer side, but the company also has consistently added new network features and outsourcing services aimed at Net businesses over the last year.

The ASP, or "rent-an-app," market is still in its very early stages, but analysts expect it to take off as businesses adjust to the notion of outsourcing their software needs. Established firms such as Compaq and Microsoft have already given their nod to the idea, investing hundreds of millions of dollars in the budding industry.

Market research firm Dataquest recently forecast that the ASP market would be worth nearly $23 billion by 2003.