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IBM Expands Rational Conference

IBM has expanded the scope of its annual conference for Rational Software users, which kicks off on Monday in Orlando, renaming the event IBM Innovate.

"We've broadened the focus and the theme of this conference to be one of innovation," said Scott Hebner, vice president of Rational marketing and strategy. "It's not just about IT applications anymore. It's about the software-driven innovation agenda that many customers are putting in place."

The conference, which had been simply called the Rational Software Conference, will incorporate not only material about the Rational product line, but also other IBM products and services.

Overall, software is becoming more of an essential part of all organizations, especially in new products and services they deliver, Hebner said. Think of automobiles, treadmills, coffee machines, medical devices -- all use software. For most organizations, "software is becoming the key ingredient that is driving innovation," he said.

"You see companies that are reaping the benefits of using software to drive really innovative products and services," Hebner said. "You need to build a strong competency in software. Otherwise, you're not going to be as successful as you could be in this field."

This is the 13th year for the conference, which started out for users of the Rational Software Architect. IBM purchased the maker of the system design software, Rational Software, in 2003. This year's attendance is expected to be around 4,000 people.

The primary audience at previous conferences was design architects, developers and other users of the Rational product line. Now, the desired demographic is "anyone who has the responsibility of designing, delivering and subsequently managing a product," Hebner said. This could include product designers and managers to CIOs and other senior executives.

Keynotes will include IBM Senior Vice President John Iwata, who spearheaded IBM's "Smarter Planet" campaign; IBM Vice President Steve Mills, who runs the company's US$24 million software business; Segway inventor Dean Kamen; and IBM fellow Grady Booch, who co-developed the Unified Modeling Language.

IBM will also announce a number of new offerings at the conference. The company will unveil a set of best practices and integrated software, called Integrated Product Management. This offering will help product manufacturing companies expedite their development processes.

IBM will also unveil a new form of software licensing model that will allow users to lease Rational software for limited periods of time, which can be less expensive than purchasing the software outright. These tools will be made available through the company's cloud offering. The company has already made some Rational tools available through a cloud offering, and the range of tools will soon be expanded to include most all of the Rational line.

Overall, IBM holds five major conferences each year. In addition to Innovate there is also LotusSphere, which focuses on collaboration and workforce productivity; Pulse, which is aimed at the IT operations team; Impact, which is focused on IT strategy and how it fits into business processes; and Information On Demand, which is about using analytics.

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