There have been some weird coincidences in the world but Intel and IBM both launching an SMB marketplace on the same day takes some beating.

But the question about ownership is the secondary question: what's really going to be interesting is whether the idea is going to succeed (and if it does, which company's marketplace is likely to win out). Intel has set the pace by actually having a site up and running, although it does appear to have a slightly different concept from IBM, as it looks primarily as a site to flog software rather than a way to exchange applications.

The IBM idea looks more ambitious in concept; IBM itself has compared it to Amazon as it will offer its users not only a chance to access applications but also a chance to review (and rate) them ... as long as they're being run on IBM machines, natch. Comparing to Amazon is a bit strong, it would be like Amazon insisting that you could buy any book you like as long as it was a Penguin.

It's certainly an intriguing idea and it's surprising that a method of exploiting software applications is not one that's been explored before now. That's not to say that the way ahead is straightforward: users are rightly suspicious of a way of working that involves them being tied to one vendor, so the idea of being limited to using IBM servers will be anathema to them. IBM didn't go into too much detail of the new venture but did say that independent software vendors would have to adopt a set of APIs that allow them to list their software on the marketplace - it's unclear whether being tied to IBM's marketplace would be reward enough.

Whether the IBM concept works or not, I'm sure that we will see this idea reborn some time soon. The SMB marketplace is a huge area, one largely untapped by the major vendors, and one short of IT expertise and, consequently, receptive to ways to acquire business software on the cheap. It might well be that the IBM and Intel offerings won't really cut it but another more independent one might.