IBM, Lotus Expand Initiatives in Education

SAN MATEO (05/21/2000) - IBM Corp. and its Lotus Development Corp. subsidiary last week intensified their efforts in the education and training market with the announcement of a new business unit and the unveiling of a major revision of the LearningSpace platform.

The rapid rate of change confronting business and other sectors spells opportunity for purveyors of education and training products. That opportunity will total $15 billion worldwide by the end of 2002, according to market research company International Data Corp. (IDC), in Framingham, Massachusetts.

To capture a sizable share of this so-far fragmented market, IBM has spun off the Mindspan Solutions business unit, which consists of over 3,000 consultants, courseware designers, and systems integrators. The group will also offer hosted and outsourced options.

The Mindspan group's output of products and content is designed around the LearningSpace computer-based and distance learning platform, which falls under the Lotus product umbrella.

In particular, the products and services are geared for those business efforts that require coordinated training programs, according to Mike Zisman, IBM general manager of knowledge management.

Such efforts include the rollout of complex products, compliance with regulatory requirements, mergers and acquisitions, supply-chain management, the implementation of ERP (enterprise resource planning) applications, and e-commerce initiatives, according to Zisman.

IBM, by dint of its extensive technical and human resources, and its ability to appeal directly to the senior management of potential customers, is positioned well to grab a large portion of the market, according to Cushing Anderson, an IDC analyst.

"They have access to people who approve the budgets, not just propose them, and they're extending the traditional education market beyond just training new hires," Anderson said. "They have a great opportunity, especially because they do it on a worldwide basis."

Although there are numerous competitors in each of the areas IBM has targeted --consulting, custom courseware, learning management systems, virtual classrooms, and tools -- IBM is the only player that can cover the whole range, Anderson said.

The updated LearningSpace platform, Version 4.0, supports the creation of materials and the implementation and tracking of self-paced collaborative (asynchronous) and live (synchronous) instruction.

LearningSpace 4.0 sports improved testing, tracking and reporting functions, expanded instant messaging, and "e-awareness" features and supports a wider array of tools, according to company officials.

"The advanced tracking is very important, especially for things like ISO-certification training and regulatory stuff like sexual-harassment training,"said Mabel Casey, director of corporate training at upscale furniture designer Herman Miller, in Zeeland, Mich.

Although the LearningSpace server runs only on Windows NT, Lotus early next year will roll out AIX, Solaris, and Linux versions, according to company officials.

IBM Corp., in Armonk, New York, is at www.ibm.com. Lotus Development Corp., in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is at www.lotus.com.

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