IBM (NYSE:IBM) has announced a new initiative to combine hardware, software and services to reduce the cost and complexity of IT for small and midsize businesses. Codenamed Blue Business Platform, the new strategy aims to provide options that will simplify IT delivery for companies with little or no IT expertise.

The initiative will allow software and solution providers to accelerate adoption and simplify management of business applications on IBM systems, enabling them to cost-effectively acquire new customers, integrate technologies and offer support. It includes IBM Lotus Foundations Start, which features e-mail, security, backup and recovery capabilities, as well as collaboration software designed for small businesses.

IBM will recruit providers to participate in the Blue Business Platform to integrate their software with a new application toolkit and online marketplace. The toolkit includes a set of open standard interfaces to facilitate the installation and management of applications. The marketplace will enable businesses to access applications, services and peer ratings.