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Microsoft, ICL extend pact

The companies extend their existing alliance to offer Web-based and Smart Card-based applications as well as to work together to target areas, such as e-commerce and financial services.

Microsoft and ICL today agreed to extend their existing alliance for an additional three years to offer Web-based and Smart Card-based applications as well as to work together to target areas, such as e-commerce and financial services.

Under the agreement, the software giant and U.K.-based IT services company ICL said that they will develop new Web-based and smart card-based applications and establish five additional global solution centers. The new Microsoft-based applications will target corporate customers and focus on four new customer segments, including electronic business, financial services, smart cards, and secure systems.

Paul West, an executive director for ICL, said that the company has been working hard on making the transition away from its original reputation of being a hardware seller to becoming the No. 1 IT services company by 2010. "We need to work in strategic relationships in order to do this...and customers are demanding Microsoft," he told CNET News.com.

West added that ICL, owned by Japan's Fujitsu, believes the extended deal will generate about $1.6 billion in revenue for ICL over the next five years.

The new applications will include technologies that utilize the Internet through digital interactive television.

West said that through this technology, people will be able to do their banking, shopping, and other transactions via their television, tailored to meet the customer's given needs.

In electronic business, new banking services will be developed that will enable people to bank and trade shares how and when they want--whether by PC, television, personal organizer, or mobile phone, the companies said.

In addition, the two companies will deliver e-commerce applications that will help simplify business in the workplace and in the home. For the home, ICL applications already include the technology behind the Internet refrigerator, which enables groceries to be ordered online.

As previously reported, ICL's Frigidaire features a touch-screen monitor and bar code scanner in the door of the fridge. The refrigerator allows customers--from their kitchens--to access selected online retailers, order, scan, and purchase goods, pay their bills, even watch television and send email messages.

Using ICL's SmartCity, a multiapplication smart card system that can support electronic purse, credit and debit cards, identity cards, and many other applications, the two companies will develop the Corporate Campus system. This system will provide employees in an organization with a personalized smart card for multiple functions, such as electronic purse and building access.

Also under the deal, ICL, as a major supplier of secure IT systems for governments, will deliver secure systems on Microsoft's enterprise infrastructure. The two will partner in this segment by offering organizational efficiency through functions, such as groupware applications, electronic communications, security, data sharing, and systems management. ICL said it has implemented Europe's largest secure office system for the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defense.

ICL said it will establish another five solution centers in addition to the seven in the original agreement to accelerate the development and deployment of applications using the Microsoft back office systems. The centers will be located in Botswana, Finland, Paris, India, and South Africa.

ICL will expand its Microsoft training program to accredit 250 consultants as Microsoft architecture developers as well as work with Microsoft to accredit up to 2,000 ICL sales personnel on the Microsoft platform.

With the announcement of the original alliance last year, the two companies set out to target institutional customers in the retail, government, education, and enterprise infrastructure sectors with the development of new systems based on Windows NT.

Chuck Dietrick, an executive director with Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft, said that the deal with ICL continues to strengthen and expand Microsoft's presence globally. He added that the agreement enables Microsoft customers who are interested in the targeted areas a "tight integration" from ICL and that ICL's "interest in using new technologies and bringing some of the new, intelligent devices to users is prevalent of Microsoft's strategy as well."

The companies said that the deal would generate about 200 new jobs for ICL at its facilities outside the United Kingdom.