Big Blue said it has formed partnerships with Razorfish, Agency.com, Luminant, Organic, R/GA, Rare Medium, AnswerThink and US Interactive. The firms all compete in the more lucrative and popular wireless segment of the services industry, specializing in Web design, development, branding, strategy and systems integration work.
A number of firms in the niche Internet services market, including Breakaway Solutions, iXL, Proxicom, Sapient and MarchFirst, are also aiming to meet the wireless demand. Most firms began offering services and other options for customers in Europe where wireless devices are more prevalent. The Big Five consulting houses and traditional services firms, including Big Blue's IBM Global Services, all are providing some type of wireless strategy planning and services to clients overseas.
For months, IBM has been beefing up its wireless initiatives, moving aggressively to tackle a market that is being fueled by the rapidly growing number of handheld users. According to market research firm Yankee Group, there will be more than 1 billion mobile phone owners by 2003, and about 60 percent of those phones will have Net access.
As part of today's agreement, the Web consultancies will offer their clients IBM's WebSphere Everyplace suite, a set of tools for developing and managing content for wireless devices such as cell phones and Palm handhelds. In turn, the services firms will participate in joint marketing and development initiatives with the computing giant, and will have access to IBM's large customer base.
Earlier this month, IBM unveiled its Marketplace Edition product, software that allows businesses to create online marketplaces that work with handheld devices. IBM has also recently cut deals with Cisco, Intel, Palm, Motorola, Nokia and Symbian to deliver Web software, content and services to wireless devices.