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Big Blue is getting hip. Just a few months after adopting a corporate blogging policy, IBM is latching onto another hot tech trend, podcasting.

Last Friday the company posted the first podcast in a new series aimed at sharing its researchers' views about the evolution of technology in various fields.

Podcasts are audio files (IBM will use the popular MP3 format) that can be downloaded automatically by programs such as Apple Computer's Itunes or the open source iPodder. Users subscribe to their preferred podcasts, then listen to the programs on portable music players such as Ipods, or through audio software on their PCs.

A format that initially caught on for "broadcasting" music programs has been rapidly adapted for other uses. IBM hopes its podcasts, available on the investor relations section of its Web site, will help investors see beyond financial figures to better understand the company's broad research interests and expertise.

Podcasting "is extremely portable and accessible, and can convey information in a way that's easier to absorb than in a lengthy document," said John Bukovinsky, an IBM spokesperson. "This follows a pattern of trying to give investors insight into the company by looking at what we think is a strength, which is our ability to understand diverse industry segments."

Going Public

IBM has posted podcasts before for employees on its internal network, but this series marks its first public experiment with the format. The debut segment, titled "IBM and the Future of Driving," explores the changing ways in which cars are built, driven and maintained. It features IBM's automotive software program director and a company research scientist who is studying automotive speech recognition and telematics.

IBM won't release podcasts on a fixed schedule, but it expects to post another ten or so before the end of the year, Bukovinsky said. Planned topics include IBM's takes on the future of shopping, health care, banking and the home.

"We'll cover a variety of subjects," Bukovinsky said. "They'll be a look ahead at where we see a convergence of business issues and technology solutions."

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