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IBM offers software for wireless marketplace

Big Blue unveils software that allows businesses to create online marketplaces that work with handheld devices.

IBM unveiled software today that allows businesses to create online marketplaces that work with handheld devices.

Marketplaces built by Marketplace Edition software will communicate with any handheld device that supports the wireless application protocol (WAP). It will enable real-time participation in online auctions, allowing people to place bids and receive outbid or successful bid notices. The software also includes the ability to search catalog databases.

Handheld device users don't have to download any additional software to access the marketplace, the company said.

The software, a component of IBM's WebSphere Commerce Suite, will be available in September. It works with mobile phones, pagers and personal digital assistants through WAP and Short Message Services (SMS).

"This product provides the infrastructure and tools that businesses need to quickly and effectively create a fully functional, scaleable e-marketplace," said Ed Kilroy, general manager for electronic commerce in IBM's software solutions unit.

The WebSphere Commerce Suite is part of IBM's WebSphere Software, which provides tools for taking content and modifying it for a particular wireless device, many of which use small, low-resolution monochrome screens.

Big Blue joins a raft of software firms hoping to provide businesses with the underlying technology they need to offer Web content--originally intended for display on PCs and laptops--to users of increasingly popular wireless devices, including cell phones and personal digital assistants.

With the Marketplace Edition software, IBM is targeting the growing business-to-business market. The Gartner Group estimates that more than 400 trading markets have already launched and that the number will rise to 10,000 by 2002. More than 3 million sellers are expected to participate in e-marketplaces by that time, with an estimated $438 billion in business-to-business transactions taking place, according to the research firm.

Although IBM has equity stakes in business-to-business software makers i2 Technologies and Ariba, Kilroy said IBM will not be competing against its partners in the business exchange market.

"We will go to market with our partners and build marketplaces together," Kilroy said.

Pricing for the software begins at $75,000.