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Big Blue, Intel chat up little guys online

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Intel and IBM are trying to drum up more trade in the small and mid-sized (SMB) market by separately launching online offerings that they hope will lure the little people.

IBM yesterday outlined its plans to create the Global Applications Marketplace – a portal for small biz firms to browse and purchase apps from a potential global pool of thousands of independent software vendors (ISVs).

Local IBM channel partners will then install and manage the applications. Big Blue also, somewhat optimistically, took the opportunity to compare its marketplace to Amazon.com and iTunes services.

The firm said customers will be able to post reviews on the site, just like online retail giant Amazon.

The iTunes link, meanwhile, is an incredibly tenuous bit of marketing guff. IBM said customers who use the marketplace will have to have an IBM server, much the same way as iTunes need an iPod.

IBM hopes to scoop up small businesses with inefficient or non-existent IT departments by punting the cloudy, Web 2.0-shaped software and services it has on offer.

So far, it's pulled in a handful of ISVs that have implemented APIs (application programming interfaces) that allow them to list their software on the marketplace. In addition IBM, which will be directly competing with the likes of Microsoft and Salesforce, said it is in talks with a number of other specialist retail software vendors to support its new offering.

But Big Blue wasn’t the only firm to announce its desire to pounce on the SMB market.

Chip maker Intel yesterday also trumpeted its own website – Intel Business Exchange – which bundles software and hardware for SMBs that includes apps from Microsoft, Salesforce.com, Symantec, Tripwire and Doculex.

It said the site will serve as an online storefront for SMBs, providing services such as product research, the ability to request quotes and a connection to solution providers.

Of course, both sites' chance of making an impact on the increasingly lucrative SMB market hinge on IBM and Intel’s abilities to convince ISVs and resellers to punt their webby new offerings. ®

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