IBM overlooks Aussie SMBs

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Big Blue worked hard to confirm its SMB focus at this year's Planet Tivoli/developerWorks Live! conference – but admitted smaller Australian companies will likely continue to feel overlooked.

Speakers at the New Orleans conference confirmed that the main beneficiaries of IBM's $US 500 million investment into the SMB marketplace will be companies harnessing economies of scale across a relatively large number of seats or locations.

Sandy Carter, Vice-President of marketing at Tivoli, said IBM was focused mainly on medium-size US companies with up to 3000 seats that would be large businesses by Australian standards. “To be honest, we don't do small business,” she said. “What we start with is mid-market.”

Mark Twomey, Vice-President for channels and business development at Tivoli, said IBM did not focus on “very very small” businesses with 1 to 100 seats, but started at the 101-to-999-seat demographic and progressed upwards.

“Our focus is more on the middle market to the upper middle market. You're actually probably looking at a minimum 500 seats,” he said.

However, both Carter and Twomey separately insisted that new IBM offerings, such as Tivoli License Manager, an application for managing licensing options in a heterogeneous IT environment, would still appeal to the Australian market.

Another new offering trumpeted as an investment into the SMB marketplace is ISV Advantage, an initiative to partner ISVs bringing niche applications to market.

“ISV Advantage brings a program that has been around for four years down to the SMB level and has so far run successfully with 100 companies worldwide,” said Buell Duncan, GM of developer relations at IBM.

“We want to build stronger partnerships with regional [overseas] and local [US] ISVs ... to master end-to-end computing,”

Further, IBM's commitment to Lotus Notes and Domino would continue despite complaints users were increasingly being pushed into buying separate applications for web services and the database system, a move likely to increase the cost for smaller businesses.

“I don't know why they say that. We are committed to investing in Lotus and we will see more offerings for the SMB space in particular, things like [Lotus] SameTime and QuickPlace,” Duncan said.

Kazutaka Nagano, Vice-President for Asia-Pacific developer relations at IBM's Software Group, said the Asia-Pacific region and its SMBs were “very important” to IBM. Twelve out of IBM's 90 strategic developer alliances are in the Asia-Pacific, Nagano said. SMBs contribute 20 per cent of IBM's total revenue and account for about 25 million companies in the Asia-Pacific, he said.

Nagano could not give any statistical breakdowns representing revenue from Australia alone but pointed out that Australia and New Zealand make up just one per cent of that market by population. “We want to partner developers to ensure we can target the SMB market in the region. For IBM, the greatest opportunity is in the 'M' of SMB, many of whom are in the early stages of e-business adoption,” he said.

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