Company News

Panasonic outsources email to IBM in record deal

* Company to move all 380,000 employees to web-based mail

* Panasonic plans to outsource other large IT functions

* Helps IBM catch up with rivals in cloud computing

BOSTON, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Panasonic Corp 6752.T has hired IBM Corp IBM.N to run a web-based email system for the Japanese electronics giant's entire 380,000 strong workforce, the industry's largest cloud computing contract to date.

It is an important win for IBM, which has lagged behind rivals Inc AMZN.O, Google Inc GOOG.O, Microsoft Corp MSFT.O and Inc CRM.N in developing cloud computing products.

Cloud computing refers to the fast-growing field of delivery of software and other services from remote data centers over the Internet. Research firm Gartner estimates sales of cloud-based applications, including email programs will soar 47 percent this year to $9.6 billion.

“This is kind of a litmus test that allows IBM to go forward in the market,” said Gartner analyst Robert Anderson.

Panasonic’s Chief Information Officer for the Americas, Cassio De Oliveira, said in an interview on Wednesday Panasonic was replacing in-house email systems in the Americas that run Microsoft’s software and systems in other parts of the world running on IBM’s Lotus email systems.

He said Panasonic intends to sign other large deals to outsource key parts of its technology infrastructure, although he declined to be more specific.

The deal with IBM includes its Lotus web-based email along with new cloud software for calendars, web meetings, file sharing, social networking and other collaboration tools. (Reporting by Jim Finkle; editing by Andre Grenon)