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LAS VEGAS—IBM Corp. has pulled out all the stops to make it easier for independent software vendors (ISV) and business partners to work with the systems giant to take on Microsoft Corp., both in large, but more importantly, small and medium-size (SMB) markets, the company said.

Speaking at the IBM PartnerWorld conference here Tuesday, Buell Duncan, general manager of IBM ISV and developer relations, said, “In 2004 we will invest $1 billion in working with our ISV partners.”

Key to that investment will be the new PartnerWorld Industry Networks for ISVs program, which realigns other IBM ISV programs to better enable the company’s ISV partners to go after business industry-by-industry.

Under the program, IBM is delivering Web-based communities that will facilitate the development of industry-specific solutions, Duncan said. The first six industries covered are: banking, financial markets, healthcare, life sciences, retail and communications, Duncan said.

“We’ll announce another five in the middle of this year and another five after that,” Duncan said. “Each industry has a specific architecture optimized for their industry’s needs.”

Mark Greene, general manager of IBM’s global banking industry, said the banking segment is the largest for IBM and his organization aligned its sales along vertical lines just to take on this large and important market.

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