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IBM opens Web design centers

The services giant steps forward to compete head to head with the smaller, Internet-focused consultancies with its plans to open nine Web development and design centers worldwide.

IBM Global Services today announced plans to open nine Web development and design centers worldwide focused on Internet services and consulting for companies that want to set up a Web presence and build an Internet strategy quickly.

Announced at a press conference held in New York earlier today, IBM Global, the consulting and services arm of computer giant IBM, said it already has centers open in Chicago, Dallas and Washington, D.C., with plans to open centers in Boston, Los Angeles and New York as well as the United Kingdom and Germany in the next 10 months.

The new so-called innovation centers will house IBM Global business strategists, marketing specialists, Web designers, application developers and systems integrators to help companies move their business to the Net.

The move marks IBM Global's step forward to compete head to head with the smaller, Internet-focused consultancies, such as Scient, Viant, Sapient, Proxicom and others. Business for this newest breed of Web services and consulting firms has been booming in recent months as more companies move to do business on the Internet.

Overall, the nascent Internet services companies are trading at double or triple their IPO price, with their values increasing between a high of 220 percent (Scient) to a low of 121 percent since they went public, gaining attention from Wall Street as some of them also begin to turn profits quicker than expected.

Today's announcement is based on a model pioneered in Atlanta by IBM Global four years ago. The center in Atlanta, which began as a small interactive media studio focused on the emerging market for Web site building, has grown to more than 400 professionals who provide clients with a full range of e-business services, such as Web design, strategy and interactive marketing, the company said.

In an effort to expand e-business offerings in this space, IBM Global said it has also partnered with various Internet-focused companies. Its first set of alliance partners include brand design firm The Coleman Group, online marketing firm Ogilvy One, Internet consulting company AnswerThink, Web strategy firm Internet Research Group and digital media company RGA Interactives.

In addition, the services giant said it's partnering with Net.Genesis and Net Perceptions to bundle IBM's Net commerce software with their marketing software to offer customers a suite of adaptive marketing software, or software that can evaluate a user's Web interests and habits in order to help target those users in marketing efforts. IBM Global said additional partners will be announced at a later date.

Neil Isford, IBM Global's vice president of e-business services, said the new initiative will also help the firm attract new talent who want to join a company where they can do "innovative, exciting Web work."

The centers, he said, will be placed where IBM Global has a large customer base and close to universities to attract new talent. The benefit for customers will be that they'll get access to the experts who will make sure their new strategy supports their Web design, he added.

On an International scope, IBM Global said it also plans to open centers in Italy, France and other countries.

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