IBM expects to expand its base of software developers in Greater China after buying Rational Software last month for US$2.1 billion. Rational was established more than 20 years ago and has been a leader in providing tools to manage software development. Rational software can analyse, model, manage and test applications. The company's general manager for Hong Kong, Taiwan and Southern China, Edward Wong, said the deal was an excellent fit. 'This merger has been seen in a positive light by many. We are very much in sync with IBM because we, too, are extremely customer-focused,' he said. The relationship with IBM is as old as Rational itself. 'Co-operation with IBM began back in the 1980s. We have done joint development with IBM right from the beginnings of the company. This acquisition will help both companies,' he said. IBM Software Group Hong Kong executive Annabella Yau said the integration of the company would be 'a perfect compliment'. 'Rational fully supports our software value propositions: integration, innovation and infrastructure. It runs across a wide range of operating system environments. It provides deep integration for all kinds of software development, and it enables customers to create a more flexible computing environment,' she said. Until this acquisition, IBM Software Group had been concerned with four areas of software: Web applications under WebSphere, the database market under DB2, communications and collaboration under Lotus and infrastructure management under Tivoli. Rational adds a fifth area, the development component. 'Software is the glue that links business processes and makes e-business-on-demand work. The core of our software portfolio is all about being able to integrate across systems, supporting individual applications while creating an environment in which data moves around to satisfy different business processes,' she said. Mr Wong said developers in the region were diverse. 'Most developers are in China and Taiwan. In Hong Kong there are some developers but the numbers are much smaller. Taiwan, of course, has lots of embedded developers and China is very strong in the telecommunications space,' he said. In the past, Rational has supported many integrated development environments (IDEs) such as Borland's JBuilder, and tool sets from Metrowerks. Even though Rational is now part of IBM, this will not change. 'We have tool sets that support most of the popular IDEs and we have also released another product, XDE [extended development environment],' Mr Wong said. XDE is only available for Windows at present, but IBM said it would soon support both Unix and Linux. Rational completes the IBM suite of software businesses. If Rational works within IBM's culture, it may help move developers over to IBM. Years ago, when Apple moved from Motorola's 68000-series of processors to its PowerPC chips, Metrowerks came from obscurity to push most other Macintosh IDEs out of business. IBM, however, is pushing both Java and Microsoft's .Net platforms, in hopes to be on the winning side whatever happens.