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IBM Bets on the Browser as Application Platform

Opus Una
Opus Una
Source: IBM

SAN FRANCISCO -- IBM is developing a new product built around the browser as an application platform.

Using PCs equipped with cameras and microphones, the application lets users share data live and in real time with high-definition quality.

The project, code named Opus Una, will "let you collaborate using audio and video over standard phone lines and draw down information from any sources over the Internet," David Boloker, the IBM (NYSE: IBM) Internet technology software group's chief technology officer, told InternetNews.com during a briefing on the project here.

"Browsers are going to be standardized, and you can share widgets across them," Boloker said. "As the browser has evolved into an application platform, it has allowed us to create rich applications; mashups are one example."

IBM has made a strong push in mashups, recently offering a multi-tiered mashup portfolio that will let companies create new business applications. The IBM Mashup Center will bundle Lotus Mashups and the IBM InfoSphere Mashup Hub.

Enterprises could use the Opus Una technology to mash up information, and share that along with real time feeds among their staff, Boloker said. He added that Reuters is testing the product with banking customers.

The project has also drawn "a lot of interest from financial companies because they can share information much better using it," Boloker said. Processing power will come from cloud providers including Amazon's (NASDAQ: AMZN) EC2 and others.

A version under testing lets doctors collaborate when they send X-rays and other digital graphical information over the Web, discussing information they see in the pictures in real time. When a doctor circles one section of an X-ray, for example, other doctors will see that in real time on the copies of the X-ray on their computers in real time.

"You couldn't do that over the Internet with MRI scans or X-rays before because these are huge files," Boloker said. "Now, users just tap into the back end database to access the files, then we only send the changes across the Internet, which makes things very fast."

Greater bandwidth and other technology advances

Advances in technology have enabled this application, Boloker said. "Signal quality, line speed and the codec (coder/decoder) he explained. "We're taking advantage of the higher processing power and greater bandwidth now available."

Opus Una (meaning "Work is One") currently uses the WebKit open source Web browser engine "because we wanted it on the phone and most of the phones use Webkit," Boloker said.

It will be ported to Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Internet Explorer, then Firefox later.

In early 2009, Boloker's group will use a hospital, a financial company and a heavy industry to demonstrate proof of concept. This will be followed by an extended alpha test with 10 companies around the world, and considerable tweaking.