Global Reach: IBM Opens Newest Innovation Center In Phillipines

More than $58 billion of IBM's $103.6 billion in sales in 2008 came from outside the Americas, according to the company's annual report. While developed countries in Europe and Asia account for a big chunk of that, IBM has been aggressively expanding into emerging-market countries in recent years and the Innovation Centers serve as beachheads for those efforts.

The Innovation Centers provide training workshops, consulting services, technical infrastructure and other assistance for local channel partners, including solution providers, ISVs and regional systems integrators, as well as local businesses and the academic community. The services are offered free to members of IBM's PartnerWorld channel partner program.

IBM has opened 20 Innovation Centers since 2000 and six this year alone. In September, for example, IBM opened an Innovation Center in Cape Town, South Africa, the second established in Sub-Saharan Africa. Others are located in such cities as Bangalore, India; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and Sao Paulo, Brazil. In 2008 the Innovation Centers assisted more than 22,000 business partners with workshops, seminars and consultations to help them build skills, reduce development costs and speed time-to-market with their solutions.

"When we expand into new countries, we actively engage the local IT ecosystem," said Jim Corgel, general manager of ISV and developer relations for the IBM Software Group, in an interview.

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Originally the Innovation Centers were created to help local developers port their applications to IBM hardware and middleware platforms, said Luis Rodriguez, worldwide director of the centers, in a recent interview. But in the past couple of years they have evolved to provide a broader range of technical, marketing and sales services to channel partners.

The Innovation Centers are part of the $2 billion IBM spends annually on building its Business Partner ecosystem, according to Corgel.

The new Philippines Innovation Center is in Quezon City within greater Manila. "We think the Philippines are the perfect next place to open one of these," Corgel said. IT opportunities there are being fueled by the $6.8 billion Philippines Economic Recovery Program, and the country's IT market is expected to grow from $2.5 billion to $3.6 billion in the next three years, he said.

"My business will benefit from no-cost access to deep technical and consulting expertise at the Manila IBM Innovation Center," said Robert Cheng, president of Alliance Software, a Philippines-based software development company and IBM Business Partner, in a statement. "The center will allow us to reduce porting and testing costs and get our Alliance WebPOS software to market more rapidly."