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IBM, Thomson Target Corporate E-Learning Market

With eyes set on the tricky e-learning market, IBM Corp. Tuesday announced it would partner with The Thomson Corp. to marry e-learning technologies and services that target corporate and government customers.

Financial terms of the alliance were not disclosed. Under the agreement, IBM's e-learning technologies and services would be combined with Thomson learning products and services, especially the company's portfolio of professional and technical e-learning courses.

Big Blue and Thomson plan to co-market and resell their combined assets to corporate and government clients and jointly develop new courseware and e-learning software based on open, industry standards that enable employees to participate in collaborative online classroom environments.

The deal between one of the biggest names in the tech sector and a pioneer in the e-learning industry is sure to lend credibility to the concept of Web-based learning environments, especially after a slew of e-learning dot-coms fizzled after promising the moon and the stars.

But, it appears IBM and Thomson are banking on third-party data that shows there is money to be made from signing on corporate clients. According to research from International Data Corp. (IDC), worldwide revenues in the corporate e-learning market will surpass $23 billion by 2004, heady numbers when compared to 1999, when the sector was projected to rake in less than $2 billion at the end of 1999.

According to IDC, there is a huge market for corporate e-learning services in North America, which will account for two-thirds of worldwide revenues through 2004. The numbers are not lost on IBM and Thomson, which estimated the market to be in the range of $18 billion.

With enterprises and government agencies turning to technology to reduce travel and administrative expenses, and to provide faster and more effective employee training programs, the e-learning sector is fast gaining acceptance and IBM and Thomson said the partnership would jointly offer thousands of e-learning courses on topics ranging from business law to information technology, budgeting, e-commerce and grammar.

Using Thomson development tools, IBM plans to customize Thomson courses to help clients train employees on company-specific products or practices. IBM will also support Thomson clients with consulting, systems integration and hosting services.

The companies said future e-learning courses developed would be fully interoperable with the Lotus LearningSpace to make full use of IBM's learning management and "live virtual classroom" technologies.