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IBM Brings ASP to the Auto Industry

At the North American International Auto Show on Thursday (Jan 11), IBM introduced a new "e-sourcing" option for automakers and their suppliers that enables them to lease leading-edge business applications over the Internet.

Called IBMPlaces.ihost.com, the new service will enable fast, easy and inexpensive access to applications for core business processes for companies of all sizes. Pricing is targeted to be dramatically below current software application pricing.

The ability to access online, or "e-source," software applications whenever needed should appeal to automakers and their worldwide supply chains. IBMPlaces.ihost.com will be especially helpful for smaller auto suppliers who have traditionally found it difficult to adapt leading-edge information technology. Initial applications are for activities such as collaboration, quality management and data interchange. Providers include Synapz of Northville, Mich.; IQS of Cleveland, Ohio; and Lotus Development Corp., a unit of IBM.

IBMPlaces.ihost.com is a business-to-business services offering designed to interoperate with and complement auto industry and related trade exchanges and e-marketplaces - such as Covisint, e-Steel, RubberNetwork and e2Open - as well as private exchanges such as Volkswagen and Toyota.

E-sourcing is a logical extension of the long established trend within the auto industry to outsource information technology operations. With IBM e-sourcing, companies can get information technology from a variety of providers from one location. For companies with limited IT budgets, e-sourcing is a more affordable alternative.

Juergen Peulen, president of Keykert USA Inc., a supplier of automotive latching systems, said his company intends to use IBMPlaces.ihost.com with an initial focus on design engineering collaboration software. "We need the ability to have an engineer at any location share product design knowledge. This will enable our engineers at various global sites to work as a single unified team via the web. By sharing best practices and lessons learned, we can extend our technological competitive advantage."

William Lang, IBM national practice executive for the automotive industry adds: "IBMPlaces.ihost.com minimizes the risk plaguing the dot.com industry because software vendors can bring new solutions to market faster and at less cost by using the delivery infrastructure created by IBM. In turn, the easier access, simplicity and lower-cost will make IBMPlaces.ihost.com appealing to end-users."

Specific tasks and applications initially available at IBMPlaces.ihost.com for lease include Business Collaboration, Engineering Collaboration, Quality Management and Web Data Interchange

Initial business collaboration applications include Lotus Development Corp.'s Sametime collaboration tool and QuickPlace project management application. Sametime is a software based real-time collaboration tool that allows users to find others who are online, communicate with them through text chat, and share applications and white boards. Sametime enables employees in different locations to work together in a virtual office environment with real-time language translation. Lotus QuickPlace enables teams to create collaborative work places on the web in seconds with no training or technical help. Lotus QuickPlace also provides task and project management services for extended enterprise teams.

Engineering collaboration applications currently available include Digital Engineering Office (DEO), designed to help organizations collaborate on the product development process. Based on business collaboration tools, it allows managers, professionals and support staff who do not have access to engineering design tools to become more involved in the product development and review process. DEO allows access to engineering CAD, CAM, CAE data and text and office productivity data from a standard browser. DEO also offers language t