Tacked onto the end of Tuesday’s US announcement, so late that those on tight deadlines had already left by the time it came up, IBM announced a major upgrading of its plans to become a major player in the systems integration business in the US. The company has signed some 40 partners to join it on major bids, among them General Motors’ Electronic Data Systems, Martin Marietta Corp, Boeing Corp, as well as MCI Communications Corp, Nynex Corp and Pacific Telesis for networking. The partners also include major users, including the Big Three automakers General Motors, Ford Motor and Chrysler; United Airlines; and Texaco. Partners who agree to join forces under IBM as prime contractor will get the benefit of referrals from the IBM sales force, and in return will offer their specialist skills and expertise. IBM is believed to be bidding on between 20 and 30 such pacts, and on Tuesday announced two customers already won: the first is the State of North Carolina, which wants an advanced computer network to link 41 school districts for administration, the second is Wells Fargo Bank, an unspecified project.