A tennis tournament might seem an odd place to pilot new technology, but that's exactly what IBM is doing with Wimbledon and the other three Grand Slam tournaments.

The scale of the operation is quite something. The first stop for many fans will be the wimbledon.org website, which is now hosted on virtual servers in Atlanta - the IBM hosting centre there has recently consolidated from 60+ machines to three big P505 servers, partitioned into multiple VMs running either AIX or Linux.

Meanwhile at the All-England Club, experienced club-level tennis players use Thinkpad X41 tablet PCs for data entry, classifying every rally of every match - whether the serve was to the forehand or backhand, if it was returned, who won the point and so on.

Within 15 minutes of coming off-court, each player gets a DVD of the match, including that shot-by-shot analysis. They and their coach can then scan through, for example looking for specific types of error or lost points and replaying them on-screen.

The data also goes into the commentators' system, where it is used to generate statistics - the percentage of points won and lost, the number of aces served, etc - not just for the current match but for all that player's previous matches in the tournament too.

And it goes onto the website and the public information terminals around the ground, allowing fans to look up the scores - though IBM says they don't get the same depth of data as the commentators do.

Incidentally, the touchscreen terminals used by the public and the commentators are Windows-based today, but IBM plans to shift them over to Linux before too long.

Last but not least, websites are a bit passé, aren't they? So IBM also captures the 3D positioning data from Hawkeye - the system that tracks the ball in flight to help umpires and line judges say whether a shot was in or out - and replays it in a Second Life simulacrum of Wimbledon. Users can watch the ball's ghostly progress either from the sidelines or by taking the position of one of the players.

As an occasional viewer only, I'll be sticking with the TV version for now. But if I were a coach or player - or even a serious fan - I would be wondering how I ever managed without all this applied technology.