IBM has said it will release the pared-down version of WebSphere, WebSphere Express, next month as part of its push into the mid-market, and it will allow partners to build customised applications around it.
As revealed in CRN earlier this year (8 August), Big Blue is preparing to go head-to-head with Microsoft and its dot Net platform by using the channel to target web services offerings at the mid-market.
Henrik Hedegaard, IBM's vice-president of WebSphere sales for EMEA, said: "The timing is absolutely right to move into the market before Microsoft gets too much traction." He added that mid-market customers are different from enterprise customers. "We can't target them directly. They want to do business through smaller, local partners," he said.
IBM will be looking to sign up one or two value-added distributors, and is also building four education centres across Europe to provide technical support for its channel partners.
Kevin Drew, managing director of IBM reseller Triangle, said WebSphere Express is likely to appeal both to firms that want to do their own application development and those needing independent software vendors to build applications for them.
"It will allow channel partners to build their own applications based on WebSphere. By introducing the element of repeatability, the cost can be brought down," he said.
"The best comparison is with the products that Microsoft has developed for the mid-market," he said. "This will allow us to deliver front-office applications much in line with that."
IBM is pushing another smaller versions of its middleware, under the banner of IBM Express, including portals and internal integration software.
A version of its DB2 database product is due to ship next year. IBM's Express range aims to attract firms that have applications built on Java.
WebSphere Express is priced at £15 per user or £630 per processor.
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