RealTime IT News

IBM Targets SMBs With 'Start' Appliance

UPDATED: Small businesses with five to 500 employees are getting a plug-and-play IT solution from IBM (NYSE: IBM).

Dubbed the IBM Lotus Foundations Start, this is a turnkey solution running on Linux that can get a business's infrastructure up and running within 30 minutes, according to the company.

It includes e-mail, file sharing, remote access, automatic data protection, backup and recovery, and manages and heals itself. It will also support Microsoft Outlook.

The appliance will automatically detect the network, secure data and configure applications. Users just have to plug it into a wall socket, attach the network cables and "you don't have anything to worry about," Jeanette Barlow, IBM's market manager, Lotus Symphony, told InternetNews.com.

IBM said businesses using the appliance can perform a full system recovery in minutes.

The IBM Lotus Foundations Start is the first in a line of small-business appliances planned by IBM in the Blue Business Platform, targeted at small and medium-size businesses.

It will come bundled with Lotus Symphony, a suite of free OpenDocument Format (ODF), or ODF , applications to create and share documents, spreadsheets and presentations.

In beta since September, Lotus Symphony is now generally available. IBM claims the product, available in 24 languages, has been downloaded by almost 1 million people during the beta program.

It has three core applications -- word processing, spreadsheet and presentation -- and is compatible with Microsoft Office 2003. Support for Office 2007 will begin in the fall and will end by the first half of 2009, Barlow said.

That will be just after Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) early 2009 release of Office 2007 Service Pack 2, which will support ODF 1.1.

IBM has long battled with Microsoft over open document standards, supporting ODF while Microsoft has pushed its OOXML.

The acceptance of the OOXML standard by the International Organization for Standardization in April was surrounded by rumors of dirty deeds.

Barlow said IBM is "pleased to see Microsoft state they were going to support ODF because that will give customers choice." She pointed out that IBM and the Open Office community have "done extensive work in support of Microsoft Office."

The ODF Alliance is skeptical of Microsoft's intentions. "Why wait until the middle of 2009 when they've had roughly three years to support ODF?" Marino Marcich, Alliance managing director, told InternetNews.com.

According to Marcich, Microsoft had launched the OpenXML Translator Project to implement support for ODF back in 2006 and now promises native support.

For Symphony techies

Symphony is based on the Open Office code and is the "technical marriage of Open Office and Eclipse," which is used for the delivery mechanism, Barlow said.

The application supports plug-ins, and IBM offers open APIs for extending it with plug-ins based on Eclipse, the Universal Network Object Component model and others.

IBM is offering a free developer toolkit on the Symphony site that lets users create plug-ins and mashups .

Symphony can be extended to Web 2.0 applications such as Lotus Connections, which Barlow described as "the industry's first enterprise-grade social networking solution, like Facebook for the enterprise."

Lotus Foundation Start begins at $949 for a five-user software package. Symphony is free, with free online moderate support, and large organizations can opt for IBM Elite Support through an annual support to IBM Passport Advantage for about $25 a user, Barlow said.