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IBM targets e-business

Big Blue preaches the gospel of open standards, access to legacy applications, and Java-based computing.

SAN FRANCISCO--Unveiling the next stage of its "e-business" strategy, IBM (IBM) today preached the gospel of open standards, access to legacy applications, and Java-based computing.

"We are seeing the Web and traditional IT coming together," said John M. Thompson, the IBM executive vice president who oversees its software operations. "Network computing is bringing about a very fundamental change. This is not about browsers or browser wars; this is about business, about network applications, and that's IBM's strength."

The killer applications of the new Internet-intranet era are "doing all the things we do today but doing them better than today, doing things in a fundamentally different way," Thompson added.

At an event designed to detail the company's Internet strategy, IBM and its Lotus Development subsidiary announced new Web servers, trumpeted their JavaBeans strategy for reusable software components, and outlined its "Network Computing Framework," a road map for how IBM customers can connect their computing infrastructures to the Net. (See related story)

Thompson predicted that 35 percent of the $1.2 trillion in information technology spending by the year 2000 would be on the Internet. Today's event was intended to insure that IBM gets its share of that.

"We are blending the leadership of the Domino Web server with middleware from IBM, tied into end-to-end systems management from Tivoli," Thompson said, referring to another recent IBM acquisition.

Analysts applauded the company's overall approach, though some cautioned that IBM still may have more to do to really cement its position in the larger Internet market.

"The key to the Internet is collecting or disseminating information, and IBM does understand that. But the most exciting thing about the Net is content, and it's Microsoft that's trying to get into that," said David Folger, an analyst with the Meta Group.

But others said IBM does seem well-positioned for the corporate intranet market. "The good news is that this Network Computing Framework wouldn't have happened five years ago," said analyst Jerry Michalski, managing editor of the Release 1.0 industry newsletter. "They seem to believe that the Web gives them a framework to leverage existing applications--that's great."

In addition to the five Lotus products announced, IBM introduced a new version of its database server, called DB2 Universal Database, and outlined plans for a common set of Java-based software tools for all its Web servers. The tools include the renamed Lotus BeanMachine and Fusion tools from NetObjects, a company IBM invested in last month.

No pricing was announced for the new software.

Separately, IBM confirmed that it is working with Netscape Communications to create a native connection between Netscape's Enterprise Server 3.0 and IBM's line of DB2 database software. The updated connectivity software would give faster access to DB2 data in Unix, Windows NT, and mainframe systems and is expected to be available with the final version of Enterprise Server 3.0, said Jeff Jones of IBM's software solutions division.

Senior writer Nick Wingfield contributed to this story.