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Avatar Or Not, Palmisano's Plan Sounds Interesting

IBM commits to spending on average $10 million each on 10 projects it spawned from 'innovation jams'.

IBM really didn't need the gimmick to make this one interesting.

Next time, let's meet by wiki
(click image for larger view)

Next time, let's meet by wiki
CEO Sam Palmisano used an avatar of himself in Linden Lab's Second Life--an online virtual world where you create an avatar that interacts with others--to announce IBM is spending $100 million over the next two years to create offerings in 10 consumer and business areas. Some, like digitizing health care and creating smart power grids, sound like familiar Big Blue projects. Others, like 3-D virtual worlds, real-time translation, and a "Digital Me" consumer pitch, show IBM stretching its gray matter.

Palmisano, whose flesh-and-blood persona also made the announcement before 6,000 employees in Beijing, touted the process to get to these ideas: "Innovation Jams." In them, thousands of IBM researchers, partners, and top customers work online through wikis, blogs, online chat, and instant messaging to identify, debate, and solve business and social problems.

"We opened up our labs, said to the world, 'Here are our crown jewels, have at them,'" said Palmisano.

Here are the 10 projects in which IBM plans to invest:

Smart health care payment system: Uses personal devices such as smart cards to trigger payments, insurance claims, and e-record updates.

Simplified business engines: Packaged Web 2.0 services and blade server offerings to let small businesses customize apps.

Real-time language translation.

Intelligent utility networks: Making the world's power grids more reliable with real-time monitoring and control.

3-D Internet: Taking the best of virtual worlds and gaming environments to a standards-based 3-D Internet as a platform for day-to-day global business where you could hold meetings or collaborate with partners.

Digital Me: Creating a simpler way to store and manage the deluge of personal digital content, from photos to music to health records.

Branchless banking: Let banks offer profitable basic services to remote but fast-growing emerging markets.

Integrated mass transit information: Real-time data to optimize buses, railways, highways, waterways, and airlines.

E-health records: Infrastructure for patient data and payments.

"Big Green" innovations: A new business unit focused on advanced technologies for environmental work, such as water modeling or water filtration via nanotechnology.

IBM says it's negotiating with more than three dozen companies, but there's a lot of jamming left to do to get these ideas to reality.

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