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IBM Renews Its Digital Management Play

LAS VEGAS -- Seeing a huge opportunity in digital rights management, IBM is criss-crossing the globe evangelizing its Global Digital Media services and solutions.

IBM Global Services vice president Gail Whipple spearheads the three-year old division. Her message: go forth and digitize. And when you do, IBM will be there to help you store, manage, transport and transform the assets.

"MTV did a survey and found out that digital viewers live the 30- hour day. All of the activities that they do, whether it is music or movie clips, adds up to what a normal person would be able to accomplish in one day. They want what they want when they want it," Whipple said during her keynote address at the inaugural Enterprise IT Week at cdXpo Conference here.

As part of IBM's e-business on demand component, Whipple said the company approaches digital content in a way that is integrated, virtualized, open and autonomic. Through the use of better digital rights management (DRM), she says businesses and industry can drive innovative implementations of digital media that take advantage of the extraordinary possibilities that the technology and services provide.

"There are many similarities between Vegas and the IT industry, sand and numbers," Whipple said. "Both rose from the sand and rose from the prospects that numbers form the backbone of the industry. The main difference however is that Vegas' numbers favor the house, while IT focuses on ones and zeroes."

IBM is one of the world's largest providers of digital media e-business services. The division, championed by former IBM CEO Lou Gerstner, dates back to 1983. But it has only begun to take flight in the last three years with the proliferation of digital media; a joint venture with Cisco Systems also helped lift the division's prospects.

The deal with the networking giant enables companies to deliver business video, including live video, over their existing network infrastructure. Based on IBM's Digital Media Factory framework, the service mixes Cisco's Application and Content Networking System suite of products and Media Publisher Software from Media Publisher with IBM DB2 Content Manager and IBM WebSphere Digital Media Enabler to create a solution for eCommunications, eLearning, and eCollaboration.

Whipple said her team of more than 1,000 dedicated services professionals helps IBM's customers around the world move to the next generation of e-business. Thanks to renewed interest in copyright protections and managing digital assets, Whipple said her division is now able to provide actual examples of digital media initiatives drawn from hundreds of customer engagements across all industries.

"It used to be that we would travel around and be able to talk about a handful of customers such as CNN," Whipple told internetnews.com. "But these were very specialized, very custom-built solutions."

Now, Whipple points to examples such as IBM's deal with the National Football League, which calls for IBM to help digitize a wide array of media assets in the NFL Films archive. The division also has contracts with Coca Cola, BBC Wales and Swedish Television.

But the division has barely begun. Whipple said the Global Digital Media division is mostly funded by internal VC money, and that she must constantly raise awareness and evangelize IBM's Digital message.

"IBM will not spend a cent on one of its initiatives unless it is convinced it will be a $1 billion revenue business in less than five years," Whipple said. "Thankfully we've already accomplished that."

Whipple said there is now a strong push in the gaming industry to use IBM's DRM solutions to protect digital assets in massive multi-player gaming environments. She said the company is also working with the set box makers such as Microsoft (Xbox), Sony (PlayStation) and Nintendo (GameCube) to help network their platforms.

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