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IBM has added more strings to its SMB bow, by unveiling new channel programs aimed at helping partners and ISVs to unite and deliver solutions based on Big Blue’s platform to for the small business sector. 

The vendor is launching new platforms as it looks to move aggressively into the SMB sector, targeting companies from 5 employees up to 1,000, according to Matt Friedman, vice president of marketing for IBM’s Business Systems Division.

“SMBs are still struggling with the complexity of technology and our response to this is our latest platforms; we want to address SMB pains,” Friedman says.

Big Blue is therefore asking partners, VARs and ISVs to participate in the Blue Business Platform, and integrate their software and solutions into an application tool kit and market place. 

The Global Application Marketplace Friedman describes as a cross between Amazon and MySpace. “SMBs can buy applications, services and systems that all work out of the box and there is also a place where SMBs can network with each other and share experiences,” he says.

The Application Integration Toolkit is a set of open application APIs and a software development kit that ISVs can use to ensure their applications work on IBM platforms, Friedman says.

IBM’s existing VIP Partner program, which incentivises VARs and ISVs to work together will be encompassed into the new platform later this year, Friedman adds.

IBM has also launched products around the initiative called IBM Lotus Foundations Start.  “It’s a family of servers that includes everything for a small business to get started in less than 30 minutes,” Friedman says.  It includes email, security, backup and recovery, he added.

 “The hardware, software and services groups are all working together inside of IBM on this, to create a single solution, so it doesn’t end up looking like Frankenstein for SMBs,” he says, adding that IBM intends to only use the channel to sell these solutions, and that Big Blue intends to launch a “significant channel program” around the offerings as well as a recruitment drive for VARs and ISVs.