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IBM Targets New Verticals

IBM is expanding its partner program to help independent software vendors (ISVs) build applications for the public sector and the insurance industry.

"These two industries are great for ISVs," said Scott Hebner, vice president of marketing and strategy. "In government and insurance, the needs become very localized."

For example, Massachusetts tax law is different from Texas tax law, so no software company can go to market with one-size-fits-all applications.

Likewise, insurance providers have different rules and plans and must continually upgrade their technology to adhere to new regulations, such as HIPPA.

State and local agencies will spend about $46 billion on IT in 2004, according to public-sector consultant Input. The federal government, which is looking to improve the security and interoperability of its systems, will spend about $70 billion.

Meanwhile, the research firm Celent estimates that IT spending in the U.S. insurance industry will exceed $20 billion this year.

Big Blue also introduced new technical offerings to help ISVs participating in the PartnerWorld Industry Networks speed development and ensure interoperability with IBM middleware, including WebSphere Application Server, WebSphere Studio Application Developer, WebSphere Portal and DB2 Universal Database.

ISV partner offerings also run on IBM hardware, including the IBM iSeries, xSeries, and HTTP Server.

IBM already provides ISV resources for the banking, financial markets, health care, life sciences, retail and telecommunications industries. And the company is working on establishing relationships with more.

"We will get anywhere from 12 to 16 industries around the end of the year," Hebner said, adding that the automotive, electronics, education, transportation and petroleum sectors appear likely candidates.

In all, more than 600 ISVs in 43 countries are participating in the program. IBM will spend $1 billion on ISV programs this year.

The PartnerWorld Industry Networks initiative is only one move by IBM to expand its reach. It is also strengthening ties with venture capital firms and their portfolio companies to increase partnership opportunities.