Exec: IBM-Google partnership merges top features

IBM’s Steve Mills talks about Google as an IBM customer, growth in China, software-as-a-service, and Microsoft

How extensive will your partnership with Google become?

It's hard to predict where these things go. We each make money in different ways. Everyone wants to write about the things Google could do in the future, and that creates this aura of the Google possibilities. But as we all know the business is nearly 100% grounded in the core advertising revenue-generating model, and many of the incremental services and capabilities they're rolling out are geared more toward the consumer than the business buyer.

These kinds of dynamic scheduling of business applications is something where IBM technology can be brought to bear in the context of Google's infrastructure to potentially give them more leverage on where they want to take Google. We look at Google as a customer in this sense, they're a potential customer for our technology. If they build up a more significant delivery capability into businesses, especially small businesses, there might be a business opportunity there for us to work together.

Is Google as a competitor, with its focus on making life easier for end users, also having an impact on how you do business and develop software?

No, because I don't run into Google as a competitor. The business model is a very different model. We don't engage in any conflict with Google in the marketplace on a day-to-day basis. Nor for that matter do we have any conflict with Yahoo or even for that matter. Now what they deliver on those platforms, potentially in the longer-term view, might have some relative conflict.

You talk about changing the Internet. How is it going to be different for the average user?

The average user is obviously going to be paying attention to what's possible on the Internet, what kind of application services are available, how much more reliable and secure that environment becomes for your data and information. I think everybody is excited about the Web 2.0 and mashup capabilities. This idea that an application doesn't have to exist in one place, but can be a composite of multiple pieces coming from multiple places, is a very powerful model facilitated by Web 2.0.

Are the speed and performance limitations of the Internet the main problems you're trying to solve?

To some extent. All these fancy techniques, all the visual composition, feeds arriving from different places, only makes sense in the context of performance. I could have done it 10 years ago. But would it have performed for anybody? No.

Is the growing popularity of software as a service impacting your own development of software?

Software-as-a-service is a tiny subset of the business process outsourcing market. There are companies who have declared themselves to be software-as-a-service companies and companies that have declared themselves to be process execution companies. Sometimes you can't tell the difference between the two. I think often it has to do with whether there is significant venture capital behind the company as to whether you call it software-as-a-service or something else. If you have more venture capital, you're software-as-a-service. It's more exciting to be called software-as-a-service and more mysterious.

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