IBM Canada’s second iteration of Express maybe faster to install and easier to manage, but it won’t be lite.

Express is a product and service offering that is priced specifically for small-to-medium sized companies. This year’s Express line up will include new software for e-commerce, a Linux-based

portal solution, and more marketing muscle along with hardware, software, services and financing.

“”I would not use the lite (reference),”” said Gary Isaacs, director of channels for IBM Canada Ltd. of Markham, Ont. “”There are different connotations of the functionality and the offering is based on brand. This customer wants (a solution) that is easy of install and manage and it is not just for small IT purchasing budgets because some of these companies have smaller infrastructure so it is specifically suited for them,”” Isaacs said.

In fact, according to a Nielsen ReelResearch report, on behalf of IBM, many medium-sized businesses are looking to improve the efficiency of their core business processes. The report found that over half of small and medium businesses think IT will be more important in helping their company achieve its business objectives in the next twelve months. Yet the majority of respondents believe that business solutions are still designed, developed and priced for large companies.

To support Express in the channel, IBM Canada will begin a $200 million advertising campaign in demand generation and to drive awareness in the market for Express which Isaacs believes will be funneled through IBM’s network of business partners.

“”We consider the business partner the primary route to the SMB space and then we try to develop programs for that strategy,”” Isaacs said.

He added that IBM Canada is not looking for all business to go through the Express line. Express will be another tool for resellers and it will be up to them to combine and match up the right solutions for customers.

SMB contributed $4.3 billion to IBM’s revenues last quarter, making it the second largest customer segment for IBM.

Headlining the new solution set for Express will be WebSphere Commerce, which will be housed by an eServer xSeries system with WebSphere Portal Express. IBM has already launched several Express middleware software products including WebSphere Application Server Express, DB2 Express, and WebSphere Portal Express. DB2 Express, for example, is priced at US$499 for a base server package, with an additional licensing cost of US$99 per user.

As for the Linux offering, IBM Canada will combine an IBM eServer xSeries 255 system with the scalability and transactional capability of IBM WebSphere Portal Express. Starting price for this Linux-based solution is US$35,000 for 20 users.

Financing for Express includes a low rate financing solution that may entice SMB customers to upgrade sooner. The low rate offers below-market rates to qualified customers in addition to the ValuePlan Lease. ValuePlan Lease provides eligible medium businesses with a short lease contract, giving them streamlined financing on the Express solutions they need. All financing options will be through business partners, Isaacs said.

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