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

IBM plans to establish a cloud computing center for software companies in China. What is driving your emphasis in that part of the world?

The market in China is advancing quickly. It's a double-digit growth technology market. You have a lot of businesses there looking at new models and innovative ideas. Obviously it's a market that's not as mature as the G8 country markets. But it's on a rocket in terms of how they're working to leapfrog, therefore there's a lot of opportunity and a lot of interesting project work.

Are you having your biggest growth in China right now?

It's certainly one of our fastest-growing markets. We had tremendous growth last year across the Asia-Pacific region. But Eastern Europe is also fast growing. The Middle East, coming off a small base had some very significant double-digit growth. We see growth rates there continuing. The phenomenon of Dubai has created a lot of attention across the Middle East. It's fueling interest in creating economic hopes, investment centers and things of this nature as these countries think about diversification out of oil. And Africa has a lot of long-term potential. It's still very emerging if not pre-emerging, from a market perspective.

Back to your cloud computing partnership with Google. How will this relationship benefit IBM?

Nothing may come of it from a business perspective, but there are things to be learned from doing these things. We're a big R&D company. We do a lot of projects where we're not quite sure where it may lead to as far as business opportunity, but we believe we're going to learn a lot from it. Google has some good engineers. We have good engineers. You're looking at some of these problems with others and seeing what sticks and what applies.

We see Google as a customer. We also see Google as a potential go-to-market. And we certainly collaborate with them over standards. Certainly a range of intersect points, some of which are clear because you expect us to be collaborating on open standards. Others are more speculative as far as how does this activity around cloud translate into a business value proposition between the two of you or in the market.

Are you surprised Google has this interest in the corporate computing model?

No, I've known [CEO] Eric Schmidt for years. That's not a surprise. Some in Google are very much focused on the Google as you see it today. Some are working on the advertising, the thing that drives their revenue. You have other people who have other backgrounds and experience, who do understand corporate computing models. They're looking at how they can grow their business. They'll certainly continue to try to grow in delivering more capability to consumers. They took a very simple idea around advertising. Early on some people saw Google solely from the perspective of search. It was all about the search wars. And Google translated the search war into a very traditional 20th century advertising model delivered over the Web. Pretty everyday. We all understand advertising. So what's the big deal? Well they found a way to make it a big deal.

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