Big Step for Web Consumers from IBM, Microsoft

At first blush, the announcement that Microsoft Corp. and International Business Machines Corp. have jointly developed a new software for creating industry standards to allow businesses to communicate more securely and more effectively with one another via the Internet would seem to have little impact on marketing to consumers.

However, says Rishad Tobaccowala, President of SMG Next, a unit of Starcom Mediavest Group in Chicago, "This is one more important step along the way of the IP-ization of business, entertainment, and the economy. Everybody is working toward modularization. In this case, the value of these industry standards will benefit business-to-business activity first. But how the changes affect consumer behavior won't be far behind."

In short, the IBM and Microsoft agreement will make possible an important leap forward in how businesses can share Web services one company can conduct Web communications more securely and more simply. IBM and Microsoft-which control about half the software inventory-will offer the software royalty-free in the hopes of expanding usage as fast as possible. Tobaccowala mentioned Sun, Oracle, and BEA Systems, Inc. as other major players.

Underscoring the importance of this project and what lies beyond, the two technology rivals spent almost the last two years developing the software, says Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates.

"The key," says Tobaccowala, "is that this is one more step for the Network Economy to better serve consumers, to change consumer behavior. In time, this will help lower the costs to online consumers. It will allow a wider and richer range of new services. And it will help the consumer become more empowered."

For advertising and media agencies, the business benefits of the industry standards will be immediate for early adoptors. Like other businesses which take a leadership position, the IBM/Microsoft software will allow much swifter, more secure, wider-ranging opportunities to communicate with clients and other businesses.

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