IBM Digs Deeper into Wireless E-Commerce

IBM announced Monday that it has signed agreements to further its wireless e-commerce strategies with seven leading wireless and Internet companies in the U.S. and Europe.

The seven companies, Nokia, Motorola, Palm Inc., Cisco Systems, Inc., Intel Corp., Ericsson and Symbian Ltd. will work with IBM to develop and market integrated products for wireless e-commerce.

While working with Nokia to enable ISPs and ASPs to deliver wireless e-business services through wireless application protocol (WAP) technology, IBM will team with Motorola to create an open “voice and data engine” so that businesses can develop and access wireless applications and services.

Additionally, Big Blue plans to partner with Cisco to develop wireless networks for both enterprises and service providers.

Deals with Ericsson, Palm and Symbian

As for Ericsson, Palm and Symbian, IBM said it intends to accelerate development and deployment of solutions for mobile e-business on their already existing platforms.

In the Ericsson relationship, IBM said it will create wireless applications for Ericsson’s advanced communicator class devices. In the Palm deal, IBM reported that the two companies will cooperate on deploying enterprise applications for IBM customers based on the Palm platform, while Palm will now include IBM as part of its Global Alliance Program.

IBM and Symbian said they will open a joint development center in Japan to work on integrating IBM’s enterprise software with Symbian’s platforms.

IBM also reported that it will work with Intel to further the development of wireless technology, with IBM providing services and hardware to Intel’s wireless center.

“Both companies believe that in order to deliver end-to-end wireless solutions for the Web, industry leaders must collaborate,” commented Leif Persson, director of the Intel Wireless Competence Center in Europe.

Wireless E-Commerce Expected To Boom

Despite any competitive misgivings about the new alliances, all of the companies claimed to be united in their realization of the inevitability of the future of a wireless Internet.

Some analysts are predicting that the wireless Internet market will grow to $120 billion (US$) in three to four years, a twelve-fold increase over its current $10 billion.

Additionally, International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts that by 2003, 61.5 million people in the U.S. will be equipped with wireless Internet capabilities, up from 7.4 million last year.

“We think the potential for mobile data is huge,” said Merrill Lynch analyst Linda Mutschler in a report issued last week. “In many ways, it’s like 1995 all over again with development of the Internet on the wired side. But this time it should happen faster because we already understand the power of the Internet.”

Reaction to Monday’s announcement was generally positive, although some industry observers were quick to notice the glaring absence of Microsoft in the new alliances.

“Frankly, we don’t see them as a key player in making this happen,” said Mark Bregman, general manager of IBM’s Pervasive Computing Division.

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