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IBM makes big effort for small business

Big Blue releases a host of new e-commerce applications for small businesses and beefs up its ThinkPad line of notebook PCs for that market as well.

IBM released a number of new e-commerce applications for small businesses today and beefed its ThinkPad line of notebook PCs for that market as well.

Small business is one of the buzzwords among major PC makers these days. Small businesses, the theory goes, are still in the process of adapting to the Internet. These organizations have also generally purchased equipment from second- and third-tier companies, which spells a growth opportunity for large computer makers.

For its part, Big Blue is intently focusing its formidable cache of e-commerce technologies at small business by launching Web authoring and graphic design software.

IBM's strategy is to offer entrepreneurs and small businesses "everything they need to quickly create a presence on the Internet and engage in e-commerce." said Bill McCracken, general manager of Strategy and Marketing for IBM's Personal Systems Group, in a statement.

One of the applications is called NetObjects TopPage, which lets users build Web pages without first getting a background in programming experience, according to IBM. TopPage includes a multimedia tutorial that guides users through each aspect of Web design, the company said.

NetObjects TopPage has an estimated retail price of $59.95.

IBM is also pitching PerfectPhoto as an e-business product. This design and imaging software allows users to manipulate and transfer digital camera shots or scanned photographs onto customized Web pages, greeting cards, brochures, posters, and calendars. This is expected to retail for $39.95.

The last piece of the package is Startup 2, designed to get small businesses up and running on the Internet quickly. Startup 2 includes the tools necessary to publish online, accept credit cards, and maintain and host a Web site with IBM HomePage Creator for e-business. This retails for $29.99.

To complement this e-commerce push into small business, IBM is also refreshing its 390E ThinkPad notebook line.

Today, IBM announced three new models ranging in price from $1,899 to about $2,700 for the small business market.

One model sports a 12.1-inch active-matrix LCD screen, a 3.2GB hard drive, CD-ROM drive, and a 300-MHz Intel Celeron for $1,899. The mid-range offering uses a 13.3-inch screen and 300-MHz Pentium II PE with on-chip secondary cache. This is priced at $2,299.

The high-end model uses the same processor and boosts the hard drive to 4.3 MB and screen size to 14.1 inches and carries a price of $2,699.