IBM has reseller relationships with other carriers, but this is the first deal in which the company will jointly develop new wireless e-business applications with a wireless carrier, said Dean Douglas, IBM's general manager for wireless e-business global services.
The object of the alliance is to find new ways to send and receive data from workers in the field without having to drag them back to a desktop computer.
Douglas cited a project where IBM created a system for building inspectors to file reports from the inspection site using wireless devices, thereby cutting the time to process a report from three days to 10 minutes.
The trick, said Douglas, is to find applications that customers want, and not merely to develop technology with interesting possibilities.
The IBM/Nextel alliance will aim for more commercial applications, targeting markets such as financial services. "We hope the partnership will produce vertical applications to address specific end-user communities and their needs," said Douglas.
IBM has also won an eight-year outsourcing deal worth $1.2bn from Nextel. IBM, through its subcontractor TeleTech Holdings, will manage Nextel's six customer relationship centres, which employ about 4,500 customer care workers. The call centre personnel will move from Nextel to TeleTech during the first quarter of 2002.