ORLANDO - International Business Machines Corp. has agreed to acquire Early, Cloud & Co., a software development and consulting firm based in Newport, R.I.

Early, Cloud specializes in creating customer service applications for several types of businesses, including banks.

IBM officials said the acquisition, which awaits regulatory approval, fits with a strategy to expand its "customer relationship management" services. These services include customer segmentation and sales management.

"IBM is making a major investment in this worldwide initiative and offering consulting, software, and services to enable reengineering of this key business process," said Karen Riley, general manager with IBM's cross- industry solutions group.

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