IBM seeks tough tech critics

IBM needs more help from developers to give its new technology a thorough going-over.

IBM needs more help from developers to give its new technology a thorough going-over.

Big Blue last week detailed several new products being developed by its alphaWorks division, which was created four years ago to allow developers the chance to make or break emerging IBM technologies through its website.

“We would like developers to come to the website, look at the technology, download it and ask us what they want us to do with it,” alphaWorks manager Daniel Jue told IBM’s E-business Insight conference in Kuala Lumpur.

Jue says if nobody wants a certain technology and it has few downloads, IBM will “kill” it, but there have been successes.

In February 1998, the XML for Java parser was posted on the website, he says. A parser dissects source code so it can be translated into another programming code. Within days the first licence requests came and by the end of the year the site received 3000 licence requests and 50,000 downloads.

“We brought the information back to IBM to create an XML strategy and more XML technology,” says Jue.

AlphaWorks now offers commercial licences, enabling early adopters, entrepreneurs and developers to create products from IBM’s emerging technologies. For 2001 it aims to integrate 40 of its technologies into IBM products, claiming 22 successes to date.

Jue says alphaWorks is also leading to other new products such as “personal area networks”, which involve a credit card sized device that creates a magnetic field around a person. Information can be transferred from one person to another with a PAN device by coming into contact with the second person. “T-space”, for use in a Ford Explorer Technomobile vehicle, uses the wireless Bluetooth technology to let an individual switch on lights and even drive the car using a Linux watch or a Palm Pilot.

Based in California, alphaWorks employs eight staff and 15 interns and has an annual $6 million budget.

Greenwood travelled to Malaysia courtesy of IBM.

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