Byline: Marc Millstein

NEW YORK — Two of the world’s leading technology powerhouses, Microsoft and ICL of London, last week announced plans to form a sweeping global alliance to encourage the adoption of advanced enterprise systems that link applications such as payroll, human resources and point-of-sale data throughout a company’s computing network..
Under the alliance, ICL and Microsoft will work together to develop and market consumer-focused information technology systems in four major sectors: retail, government, education and enterprise infrastructure integration.
In all cases, Microsoft’s enterprise solutions platforms — such as Windows NT — will serve as the preferred choice for running ICL’s systems.
ICL, together with its parent company, Fujitsu, a $36 billion organization, is the third-largest supplier of retail information technology systems in the world, with operations in more than 70 countries.
“The sort of partnership that we have put together with Microsoft in the retail sector should give the industry confidence,” said Jim Devlin, senior vice president of global solutions for ICL Retail Systems, Dallas, the retail division, adding that large retailers can now reliably invest in critical projects with full confidence in the ability of these systems to leverage information and serve customers.
Under an initial three-year agreement, ICL, with support from Microsoft, will train more than 4,000 of its employees to become Microsoft-certified systems engineers and Microsoft-certified solutions developers.
ICL will open seven Solutions Centers worldwide to accelerate development and insure the smooth deployment of systems running on Microsoft software platforms. The centers will be in Redmond, Wash. (Microsoft’s home base), and Wake Forest, N.C.,; Bracknell, Manchester and Belfast in the U.K.; Stockholm, and Katowice, Poland.
“This is significant,” said Graham Clark, group manager of product industries at Microsoft. “To enable retailers to take full advantage of our technologies, it is important that we have strong service, support and solutions. Our relationship with ICL specifically addresses those three areas. This is a major milestone in our retail strategy toward enabling more retailers to take advantage of technology.”
Under the agreement, ICL becomes Microsoft’s first strategic enterprise alliance partner in Europe.
The alliance will leverage Microsoft’s enterprise platform as the preferred worldwide platform for running ICL’s GlobalStore, PrecisionRetailing and InteractiveRetailing family of applications for retailers.
ICL will develop a Microsoft ActiveStore-compliant version of its GlobalStore transaction processing system now being used by retailers such as Marks & Spencer. A packaged version of ICL’s PrecisionRetailing Consumer Relationship Marketing application — used for analyzing customer shopping patterns and building store loyalty programs — will be developed on the Microsoft enterprise platform.
ICL, with help from Microsoft, will create InteractiveRetailing applications to integrate multimedia technology into the store setting, and make user-friendly PC-based on-line shopping a widespread reality.

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