The company will support of a series of open standards across all of its major software products, and is offering new tools to enable applications to be more easily and efficiently connected to the Web.
Big Blue has taken its core software products: WebSphere middleware, DB2 database, Tivoli management and security offerings and elements of its Lotus groupware suite, and has embedded Web services capabilities into the software.
The Web services will enable users to create, deploy, and host Web-based applications in a secure manner, with much greater ease and efficiency.
"The problem with B2B is that it was too difficult to do, but as a business application its potential is still there," said Mark Cathcart, technology strategist at IBM. "Web services may well bring B2B back into focus because it will make business applications much easier to achieve."
IBM is offering support for open standards such as Java, XML, SOAP and UDDI (universal description discovery and integration). The company claims users will be able to integrate existing offerings easily and turn them into fully functional Web services.
Analysts group IDC is predicting that the global market for "infrastructure software and services that simplify the integration of business processes" will hit £35bn by 2005. However, IBM would not say what share of the market it hoped to take or when it will make serious profits from Web services.
"We're making money from Web services already," said Cathcart. "It just depends how you define making money."
New versions of the IBM software will be Web service enabled, and all new versions are scheduled to ship by the end of June. It is unclear whether existing users of WebSphere, for example, will be given the additional functionality for free, or be forced to buy upgrades.
It seems likely that smaller customers, with one-off purchases, will be charged, while large corporate customers, with long licensing deals, will be upgraded free of charge.