updated 5/10/2004 2:19:04 PM ET 2004-05-10T18:19:04

International Business Machines has raised the stakes in its battle with Microsoft by developing a software technology that would allow large corporations to bypass Microsoft operating systems and applications on PCs or handheld computers.

This is the latest of increasingly aggressive moves by IBM, the world's largest computer company, to grab market share as global information technology markets strengthen following three years of downturn. It comes as Microsoft is under pressure from corporate customers unhappy with security issues in its software and the cost of licenses. (MSNBC is a Microsoft-NBC joint venture.)

IBM's software technology, to be announced on Monday in New York, has the backing of leading technology companies, including Motorola, PeopleSoft, Adobe Systems and Siebel Systems. Top executives of these companies will announce plans for products that support the IBM software, providing large corporations with further alternatives to Microsoft business software applications.

IBM calls the software technology "client middleware" — a type of operating system that runs business applications on "clients" such as desktop PCs, handheld devices and advanced types of mobile phone. It is an extension of IBM's successful software strategy that has focused on dominating the markets for middleware — software used by corporations to run large IT systems and e-commerce operations. IBM's software group achieved more than $14 billion in revenue last year.

Steve Mills, head of IBM's software group, said: "Our customers will be able to cut their IT costs because the client middleware will enable them to run their applications on many different types of computers."

Companies adopting the IBM software would be able to manage thousands of PCs and hand-held computer devices from a centralized location, substantially lowering administration costs. Such costs can run as high as $7,000 for each PC user, according to estimates from Gartner, the leading US IT research company.

Amy Wohl, analyst at Amy Wohl Associates, a U.S. technology consulting company, said: "Microsoft will be concerned about the IBM move and will need to respond."

She said that, because the IBM software could work alongside Microsoft operating systems and applications, large corporations would be able gradually to move their users away from Microsoft software.

IBM's client software offers versions of applications found in Microsoft's Office — word processing, e-mail and spreadsheets. Mr. Mills said the first applications of the technology would probably be in specialist sectors such as those in large call centers.

© The Financial Times Ltd 2013. "FT" and "Financial Times" are trademarks of the Financial Times.


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