IBM’s Gears up for Web 2.0 Power Play

IBM, Google, and Microsoft ready to rumble for Web 2.0 supremacy

At its Collaboration Summit 2007, IBM Corp. announced a bevy of new Web 2.0 offerings, including mobile support for Lotus Notes and Lotus Domino Web Access, Lotus Quickr Content Integrator, Lotus Forms 3.0, and a number of Accelerators for WebSphere Portal. The big news—for many enterprise customers, anyway—is the availability of a new hosted Lotus Notes offering.

Analysts see IBM’s move as an indication of its intent to “compete for the Web 2.0 desktop.” Big Blue’s timing couldn’t have been better, says Brad Shimmin, a principal analyst for application infrastructure with consultancy Current Analysis.

“[IBM] needed to make good on promises made earlier this spring [at LotusSphere 2007] regarding the delivery of a more cohesive and interoperable family of collaboration products including Lotus Quickr, Lotus Notes, Lotus Connections, and Lotus Sametime,” he comments. Last month’s announcements go a long way toward addressing these promises, Shimmin continues—and Big Blue has promised additional deliverables in early 2008.

For years now, collaboration was synonymous with e-mail, but IBM officials describe a new (let’s call it “post-e-mail”) collaboration environment.

“[T]his represents an historic opportunity to redefine how people work together in a Web 2.0 world,” said IBM Lotus general manager Mike Rhodin. “The primacy of e-mail has passed. The new definition of collaboration is access to the right people and the right information at the right time --- the linked value of all the existing expertise for any topic or project.”

In addition to its hosted Lotus Notes/Domino offering—which lets users pay as they go for what they need—Big Blue announced mobile support for Lotus Notes and Lotus Domino Web Access via a new offering: Lotus Notes Traveler, which is slated to ship sometime in Q1 2008.

At this point, IBM officials say, Lotus Notes Traveler will replicate e-mail (including attachments), calendars, address books, and journals in real-time, over both wired and wireless connections.

It’s an important deliverable for IBM, and—considered in tandem with enhancements to Lotus Sametime and Lotus Quickr—it’s further proof that IBM is a collaboration player to be reckoned with, says Current Analysis’ Shimmin.

“IBM has literally reinvented its collaboration toolset, dramatically updating Lotus Notes, continuing to enhance Lotus Sametime, and introducing Lotus Connections and Lotus Quickr,” he argues. “This suite of tools gives IBM a very solid foundation upon which to build a Web 2.0 go-to-market message that envelopes the two predominant approaches taken by SOA platform competitors such as BEA, Oracle and SAP, Microsoft and Sun.”

Most of Big Blue’s competitors are shopping Web 2.0 solutions designed for desktop productivity or business processes, Shimmin points out. That gives IBM a competitive leg up. Of course, Big Blue still has its work cut out for it, he concedes.

“[F]or IBM to make competitive hay with this approach, it will need to see through a number of product changes that are at this point not planned for release until 2008, primarily a more content-repository-neutral version of Lotus Quickr,” he stresses. “[It] will also need to streamline [the] business model for applications hosted on its Applications on Demand, which right now employs a hybrid subscription and CPU licensing scheme.”

Big Blue’s Lotus Sametime Unyte software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering helps address some of these issues to a degree, Shimmin argues. “[IBM] will [also] need to more aggressively connect its WebSphere and Lotus product families and consider expanding its hosted solutions to include integration-on-demand and perhaps even desktop productivity applications,” he counsels. “Once these two product lines are fully converged and able to function in both hosted and on-premise environments, IBM’s Web 2.0 portfolio will constitute a significant threat to Microsoft’s Office/SharePoint/BizTalk combination and allow IBM to compete directly with Google, which appears ready to enter this space.”

Shimmin expects a clash of the Web 2.0 titans as IBM, Microsoft, and Google continue to flesh out their respective Web 2.0 strategies.

“As IBM continues to expand and leverage its Web 2.0 toolset throughout its SOA-enabled product line, [it] will present direct competition for Microsoft, which is just beginning to leverage its desktop software in the service of business process enablement, and it will give IBM a head start in meeting potential competition from Google’s hosted collaboration and productivity software,” he concludes.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.

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