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IBM Puts Lotus On The Server

Big Blue is hoping to add to its presence in the office space, and beef up sales of its Lotus division, by offering desktop productivity applications from a server, distributed to a variety of devices.

Improvements to Lotus Workspace Messaging (LWM), Lotus Workplace Documents (LWD) and Workplace Client Technology, Micro Edition (WCTME) are three new applications that IBM hopes will help it chip away at the dominance enjoyed in the space by Microsoft .

By running applications through the server, rather than at the desktop, the software updates give customers the ability to access their applications via the Web or corporate intranet using not only their desktop or laptop but PDAs and wireless phones.

By putting all the software on the server, IBM is hoping business users won't have to deal with accessing documents from a particular Web application or client-based software piece; it will all reside under one unified application model, accessible by most kinds of devices.

With WCTME 5.7 and a beefed up Workplace Messaging app, Lotus mobile users can go online and send instant messages (IM) or download their email, get updates on their collaborative projects, get the latest sales figures and view them offline at leisure. Since documents, presentations and reports are centrally managed, collaborative projects are more logically placed, officials said.

Workplace Messaging is an update to the software debuted in May 2003, which featured a baseline e-mail management component.

IBM will tap its middleware WebSphere portal software to provide the front-end interface for these server-based applications and Tivoli to manage the accounts on the network. WCTME 5.7 support allows for 'mini' support of DB2e, Java runtime environments, Service Management Framework and MQe integration on thin clients like PDAs. And unlike Microsoft, IBM's software will run on Windows, Unix, Linux and mobile operating systems (OS) like Symbian. Support for Apple is expected later this year.

The new software comes with support for application developed by IBM partners like Adobe and PeopleSoft.

Lotus has been quickly morphing into an Office-killer since last year, adding capabilities that merge back-office management with front-end end user productivity tools like the integrated email, calendar and IM functions tool that were released as part of a larger update in November 2003.

Because it's built on top of J2EE , SQL and Web services , Lotus Workplace has a level of interoperability with open source developers and applications not enjoyed by Microsoft and its proprietary software.

Officials at Big Blue surely expect big things from the Lotus upgrade. Sales of the collaboration software have been modest, at best, compared to other IBM middleware offerings. In the fourth quarter of 2003, Lotus sales gained a two percent boost compared to 17 and 10 percent gains in Tivoli and WebSphere sales, respectively.

Analysts see the move by IBM more as a shift to offering software in a more dynamic, distributed computing environment.