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IBM's appetite for acquiring software companies shows no signs of diminishing. Last year, the company conservatively spent $3.6bn, adding 12 companies or just their assets to its $18bn middleware business during 2006.

Steve Mills, IBM's software chief, today promised a repeat performance in 2007 as IBM capitalizes on customers' attempts to build service oriented networks (SOAs) and to improve their software infrastructure for storing and retrieving data.

"You will see us continue to make acquisitions. It's important to us," he told press today, while announcing updates for IBM's year-old information on-demand strategy.

"There's still a pile of things customers and others are asking us to do, and we are always figuring out how to do that from within or with acquisitions," he said.

IBM's biggest software acquisition last year was FileNet, the enterprise content management (ECM) specialist, for $1.6bn. FileNet gave IBM a handy 17,000 customers spanning banking and financial services, utilities and healthcare.

Today IBM announced its first FileNet update, FileNet P8 4.0, with 75 changes intended to make the software more attractive to customers running mixed IT environments. These include support for third party content federation services, repositories and file types - although IBM did not specify which - support for Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) providing a means of graphical notation to describe business processes, and inclusion of a Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) content engine for authoring, transforming, reviewing and publishing documents.

The inevitable concession to Web 2.0 for the enterprise comes in the form of a Web 2.0 interface for IBM's Content Manager OnDemand, which formats output of electronic forms and reports for browsers. According to Mills, the interface provides flexibility for users who want to access information from different sources by combining RSS and Atom feeds with more traditional data feeds and sources, while also adding federated access and single sign on for enterprise-level security.

Mills claimed IBM's information on demand business grew 42 per cent during 2006. He predicted continued growth, based on research suggesting the amount of digital information created and stored is expected to double every 11 hours by 2010. ®

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