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Big Blue courts small business

IBM offers a suite of online business tools developed by DigitalWork.

Boosting its small-business offerings, IBM will offer a suite of online business tools put together by DigitalWork for small companies.

As a result, IBM Connection Services becomes DigitalWork's second franchisee of tools for creating or tapping online services.

The tools offer the capability to create press releases through BusinessWire, to register a Web site with search engines through Submit It, to check salary data through WageWeb, to order printed materials through iPrint, and to buy books through Barnesandnoble.com.

Big Blue, often hampered in its small-business offerings because its sales costs are relatively high, will market the tools primarily through its Web site.

"We are the first to take the franchise approach and aggregate best-of-class [service] providers and work with them to create solutions for small business," said Rob Schultz, DigitalWork CEO. Most tools can used in 30 minutes or less and cost under $100.

Revenue from customers is shared by the service provider, DigitalWork, and the distribution partner. DigitalWork, which gets 10 to 50 percent of the revenue depending on the service, has a similar distribution deal with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.