Smart Business Boxes Launch in India, Not the U.S.
December 1, 2008 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Since 2000, the letter “i” in the IBM midrange has stood for “integration,” the key attribute, according to Big Blue, of its AS/400 and successor platforms. But in the modern IBM, the i stands for a lot of things, including international and, lately, India. And considering that the top brass have a love affair of sorts with India, it doesn’t really come as a surprise that the company is launching its “Blue Business” Smart Cube platform in that country first rather than here in the United States.
IBM’s public relations machine didn’t want any of us in North America or Europe to notice that the Smart Cube platform had been launched in India or anywhere else, hoping to save some thunder for a launch in the Western economies that is presumably coming some time in the first quarter of 2009. But, nonetheless, IBM announced the Smart Cube platform in Pune, India, back on November 18. Based on the limited information that IBM is providing customers, the launch was a pretty soft one. There are still no spec sheets on the box. But there is advertising, which might just mean that the company’s Business Systems division has been given some money to spend on Smart Cube. In as much as at least one flavor of the Smart Cube appliance-style, services-laden box is based on a Power6 processor and runs the i 6.1 operating system and supports the DB2 for i relational database, this might be the first real marketing IBM has done for the i platform in a long, long time. Then again, there are two variants of the box, with the other being an X64 server and supporting Linux, and presumably very much like the Lotus Foundations machine that IBM has also launched recently, and that brings us right back to box homogenization with a lack of detail about differentiation that we have all been trying to talk IBM out of for, what, like a decade or two?
There isn’t a lot of new data in the Indian Smart Cube announcement, so forget about feeds and speeds or pricing. But here is what you can learn from what IBM said. Apparently, the Blue Business platform is one of the ideas that came out of the Innovation Jam collaboration session that IBM held for 150,000 employees in over 100 countries a little more than two years ago. The Smart Business platform, which takes the integration ideal of the AS/400 a little further, with automatic deployment of applications onto an appliance server from a Web-based community and marketplace maintained by IBM. As I have said before, this is like the AS/400’s Electronic Customer Support (ECS) from 1988 on steroids, enabled by a consistent framework that app and tool vendors are coding to and the universal interconnect, the Internet.
The other interesting bit, and why IBM is obviously excited about testing out the Smart Cube business in India is that this country, which sits at the convergence of Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, has some 35 million small businesses, according to Big Blue. IBM is focusing the initial Smart Cube deployment in India on the healthcare and manufacturing industries, but has not talked specifically about what applications are being offered through the Smart Market. This is the Web-based marketplace for applications for the Smart Cube, including Amazon-style customer ratings on the applications. IBM did say it is working with the following application software vendors in the India market: Adrenalin eSystems, Aunwesha, AWPL, Cincom Systems, Idhasoft, Infinite Computer Solutions, Infor, Instant Collaboration, Karishma, Nexstep, Sobha Renaissance Information Technology, Teamworks Solutions, Telesis Global Solutions, and Transversal eNetworks.
The other new bit of data from the Indian launch of the Smart Cube is that the bundled offering includes something called the Smart Desk, which is a Web-based dashboard that is a single pane from which end users can contact Smart Business maintenance services from IBM and its partners and for subscribing to software as a service or downloading applications.
If you want to see how the Smart Business platform is being pitched in India, including the advertising campaign, check out this link. (If you want to go directly to the ad material, go here.) You can also see the preview of the site created for the United States here. From the U.S. site, we learn that Mike Prochaska is program director of the Blue Business Platform. And, there are some combination hardware-software solutions in the online Smart Market, too, which I will play around with and tell you all about next week.