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IBM boss Sam Palmisano will spend more than $1bn to lure software developers back onto IBM software platforms. He wants IBM's software division firing on all cylinders ahead of this year's expected upturn in the global IT market.

IBM holds 18 per cent of the middleware market and this will form a key part of the software expansion. It is targeting small developer companies within niche vertical markets.

Developers will be offered co-marketing money, free software and developer tools. IBM is particular keen to lure people working on Microsoft's .NET platform. This won't be easy: Microsoft is firmly entrenched in the VAR community, even though, lately, it has been building a big applications software business which competes with some of its reseller customers.

IBM has few such issues: it retired hurt from the applications business in 1999

More details are expected to emerge from its Partnerworld conference in Las Vegas. ®

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