The sleeping giant IBM has seen fit to wake up to software. In an attempt to regain market share and create a nineties image, IBM is hosting its first major Asia-Pacific event to focus on software. This week more than 300 customers, distributors and media - mainly in equal numbers from most countries in the Asia-Pacific region - will attend a three-day conference on IBM's software strategy and implementation plans. They will view demonstrations on IBM donated machines, located in the second largest supercomputer facility in the world on Maui. Just over a year ago, IBM restructured to focus efforts on software and play catch-up to financially smaller, but more market-smart Microsoft. Lou Gerstner, IBM's CEO, appointed senior executive John Thompson to manage the software division. John Bisone was pirated away from Compaq at the end of last year to streamline IBM's marketing campaign and give customers a more cohesive look at product offerings. 'There are more users on the Internet and more people networked,' Mike Colleary, director of Asia-Pacific software in emerging markets, said. 'Data distribution is becoming key, and IBM has the tools to do that. This plays to our strength.' Not long after Mr Thompson took over, IBM decided to acquire Lotus and is now focusing on selling Notes as a networking solution. 'Network-centric' computing is the plan, according to a paper written by the D H Andrews Group to espouse IBM's software strategy. 'Notes will be interoperable and tie platforms together, giving access to the Internet and the enterprise,' Mr Colleary said. 'The mainframes of today will be the server of tomorrow and IBM's solutions will help to ensure that legacy system data is still available on new system solutions.' One of the first moves is an unusual, non-proprietary stand for a computer company that is still under a court order set up over 40 years ago to keep it from monopolising the market. Just last week, the US Justice Department agreed to phase out the order over the next five years, citing new competition in the market. That competition is mainly summed up in one word - Microsoft. IBM is plotting to tap the new wave of openness hitting the computer world, from Java to the Network Computer. IBM plans to sell software that runs on most popular operating systems, or in other words, support all platforms. The company best-known for its slow development of applications - although these probably have less bugs than the current, rush-to-ship Microsoft applications - is now apparently admitting that applications may not be for IBM. 'The decision not to concentrate on applications was a business decision,' Mr Colleary said. 'Now business partners (mainly independent software vendors) do not have to compete against IBM, so they will be more willing to design software for us.'