IBM buys PureEdge for XML electronic forms expertise

IBM Corp. Tuesday said it has acquired Victoria, B.C.-based e-forms specialist PureEdge Solutions Inc. and will use the company as a base to grow a new Canadian software development


PureEdge provides XML-based electronic forms software for banking, government and insurance sectors. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“It’s becoming clear to us that electronic forms is becoming one of the key currencies for information exchange – not only for messaging and documents . . . but electronic forms capture business processes,” said Ambuj Goyal, IBM’s general manager of Workplace, Portal, Lotus and Collaboration software, via teleconference.

“Vendors are trying to control this currency of exchange. This is where we thought the PureEdge acquisition made huge sense.”

PureEdge has worked with IBM since 2002, partnering on customer-specific engagements and through IBM Global Services, which carried its solutions. Following the acquisition, which is expected to close this Friday, PureEdge products will be rebranded with an IBM label and integrated into its WebSphere, Workplace and content management tools as early as the start of next year.

Forms-based technology is gathering momentum in regulated industries like health care and banking, said Ken Visconti, vice-president of Workplace, portal and collaboration products, and is seen as a way to automate key business processes. “Electronic forms are increasingly the front end of these business processes.”

The technology is gravitating towards open standards for reasons of interoperability, he added, and the need to exchange data between organizations and across industries.

Mark Upson, president and CEO of PureEdge, said that his company supports the W3C XForms standard, based on XML architecture. Almost every vendor interested in e-forms has expressed support for the standard with the notable exception of Microsoft.

“It’s very much becoming, and will be, the standard for data interchange across industries. (XForms) will allow you to interchange between vendors, between industries, between different companies, much more easily than you can today,” he said.

PureEdge employees approximately 70 people and all of them will be moving over to IBM following the acquisition, said PureEdge vice-president of marketing Paul Chan. PureEdge’s Victoria offices will form the backbone for an IBM software lab. IBM wasn’t forthcoming on the specifics of the lab’s future, but Chan said, “I think it’s a pretty safe bet they want to grow the lab and build upon the resources that have been built up here.”

IBM operates four software labs in Canada, the largest of which is in Toronto. IBM has purchased one Canadian company every year for the last four years, the most recent of which was Montreal-based Systemcorp in October 2004. Following that acquisition, IBM Canada created its Montreal software lab.

PureEdge has partnerships in place with other software vendors including Waterloo,Ont.-based Open Text, which uses the company’s e-form solution in its LiveLink ECM product. Those partnerships will likely remain in place following the IBM deal, said Chan.

“We want to make our products and the technologies behind them – especially XForms – ubiquitous. If there are vendors that support that notion and they decide to buy through OEMs . . . I think we will continue to do that.”

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