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IBM finds the strength to make another $1bn pledge

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Six years ago it was Linux. Five years ago it was Java tools. Fast-forward to 2006, and it's information management. What are we talking about? IBM's latest spending pledge.

IBM has said it will spend $1bn on development of "information management software" during the next three years. Investment will materialize through "closer alignment" between IBM's middleware and consulting businesses, IBM said. The company kicked-off its three-year project announcing the WebSphere Information Server along with the availability of training and guidance for customers through various IBM centers of excellence.

WebSphere Information Server will use web services APIs that are being deployed in service oriented architectures (SOAs) to ensure data quality, transformation, movement and federation, plus the management of medadata. This extension to IBM's middleware portfolio is planned for the second quarter of 2006.

Steve Mills, senior vice president for IBM's software group, said in a statement that the combination of IBM's software and consulting businesses would help companies unlock value from business information and over-come use of "piece-part products" to manage and search information.

IBM's commitment to three years of information management should come as little surprise. The company spent much of 2005 hyping the information management capabilities of announcements around its search, database and collaboration software.

The company also regularly makes bold dollar commitments to specific markets. In 2000, former chief executive Lou Gerstner committed IBM to spend $1bn on Linux during 2001. In a bet calculated to ease IBM's reliance on Microsoft's Windows, Gerstner predicted Linux would become "more prevalent than [Windows] NT by 2004."

"This is a big issue for every server company," Gerstner said at the time.

Later that same year, IBM donated $40m of its own software to help kick-start the Eclipse Java open source tools consortium. Eclipse was originally designed to unlock Sun Microsystems' control over Java and increase the market share for IBM's Java development tools and integrated development environment (IDE).®

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