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ICL inks deal with Microsoft

The British-based systems manufacturer announces an alliance with software giant Microsoft to develop information technology systems.

Microsoft continues to forge partnerships to drive the adoption of its Windows NT operating system and related applications.

The software giant today inked a three-year deal with U.K.-based systems manufacturer ICL to develop information technology systems for a range of applications based on NT.

All of the new applications to be created by ICL will be based on NT, Microsoft's BackOffice server application bundle, and Office desktop software.

ICL, currently 90 percent owned by Japan's Fujitsu, said the alliance would create more than 1,000 jobs in Europe in the next three years.

The deal will also be quite lucrative for ICL. "I am anticipating that in the next three years ICL would probably see half a billion pounds [$815 million] additional new business as a result of this," ICL's chief executive Keith Todd told Reuters.

ICL plans to train more than 4,000 staff, open seven dedicated "solution centers" worldwide, and market and promote the products jointly with Microsoft.

Out of the total number of new jobs, about half would be in the United Kingdom at or near existing ICL facilities. Most of the new jobs will be mainly for systems engineers and software developers.

The new systems will target institutional customers in the retail, government, education, and enterprise infrastructure sectors, the companies said.

In the retail area, the companies plan to team on a version of ICL's GlobalStore transaction processing system that will be compliant with Microsoft ActiveStore, the company's software framework for linking retailers' in-store systems with back-end operations.

The companies will also combine to offer a front-end system for accessing local and government services. The system will deliver information through a new set of NT-based applications linked to front-end PCs and public access kiosks, the companies said.

In education, Microsoft and ICL plan to build an educational software suite, called ICON5, which will include software to control and screen Internet access.

In the enterprise area, both companies plan to create new, unnamed applications based on NT and BackOffice.

The new "solution centers" will be located at Bracknell, Manchester, Belfast, Ireland; Stockholm, Sweden; Katowice, Poland; and Redmond, Washington and Wake Forest, North Carolina.

ICL, which makes computer systems, did not say how much each company would invest in the project.

Once seen as a rival to the giant U.S. computer makers, ICL has scaled back its manufacturing and is now striving to reposition itself as an IT provider and is bidding for several high profile systems contracts. It is aiming for a flotation on the London Stock Exchange in 2000.

Reuters contributed to this report