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IBM stocks its software arsenal

Big Blue's latest forays in the lucrative and competitive market for business software take aim at Microsoft, Sun Microsystems and Oracle.

IBM is working on three fronts this week to attract more customers to its business software lineup.

The company on Monday released a new version of its integration software, which allows companies to link dissimilar business software to share information; announced plans to ship new content management software that allows businesses to house a variety of information, including video, audio files and images; and said it is unifying its programming tools, so developers can build and test their software through one user interface.

The three announcements are IBM's latest effort to capture new customers in the lucrative and competitive market for business software. Big Blue competes against Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, Oracle, BEA Systems and others in the market for business infrastructure software that companies use to build Web sites and other systems.

IBM on Monday said it is shipping WebSphere Business Integration version 4.1, which allows a company to link its own software together, but also allows it to connect to other organizations so they can conduct transactions online.

The software combines two previous IBM MQSeries integration products with integration technology from the company's acquisition of CrossWorlds Software earlier this year, said Doug Brown, marketing director for IBM's WebSphere Business Process Integration.

The product includes adapters that link business software from companies such as SAP, PeopleSoft and Oracle so they can all work together. It will also include software that will allow a company to manage transactions with its business partners, Brown said.

Beginning in the third quarter this year, Brown said IBM will release different versions of WebSphere Business Integration software and target them toward six different industries: automotive, insurance, electronics, financial, telecommunications and retail. The different versions of the software will include pre-built software geared toward the specific industries. IBM did not release pricing for the integration software.

Keeping tabs on content
IBM on Monday said that it was also updating its content management software, called Content Manager version 8, with new features that include support for MPEG-4, a next-generation compression format for video and audio, and the ability to access data found in rival database software from Oracle, Microsoft and Sybase, said Brett MacIntyre, IBM's vice president of content management.

Content Manager, which is used in conjunction with IBM's DB2 database software, will also be easier to use and offer better management features, such as an authentication service that allows people to sign on to access information, MacIntyre said.

A test version of Content Manager is available now. The final version of the product will be released in September. Content Manager will cost $24,000 per processor and $2,000 per concurrent customer.

IBM will also unify all of its programming tools for its e-business software products and integrate them with its Java software development tool called WebSphere Studio.

IBM historically has offered individual programming tools for each of its e-business software products, such as its integration software; DB2 database; Tivoli software for managing the health of computing systems; Lotus Domino software for e-mail, calendaring and group scheduling; and IBM's iSeries servers, which has many of the features, but not all of the power, of IBM's mainframe servers.

Now IBM is building connectors that will allow developers to plug in the individual tools to the WebSphere Studio development tool, said Scott Hebner, marketing director for IBM's WebSphere products. That way, programmers will be able to work with all of the tools through a consistent user interface, he said.

Some connectors will be available this summer, while the rest will ship by year's end. The technology will be based on the Eclipse open-source project, which lets software developers choose development tools from different software makers and plug them together.