May 14, 2003 8:25 AM PDT

IBM makes WebSphere connection

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IBM released on Wednesday a set of tools to promote the use of its WebSphere portal software within corporations and by business partners.

The company has launched Collaboration Center, a set of applications designed to make it easier for people to communicate with co-workers via tools such as instant messaging and shared documents. IBM is also filling out its line of development tools for building portlets, or applications that run in a corporate portal. A portal provides business users with a Web browser-based, consolidated view of information from multiple applications.

Collaboration Center, which IBM demonstrated at its Lotusphere conference earlier this year, is part of the Lotus division?s plan to rewrite its applications in Java. The plan, which IBM calls its NextGen strategy will make Lotus applications run as add-ons to IBM?s WebSphere Portal, one of the company?s key software programs.

By making the Lotus applications run as WebSphere add-ons, IBM hopes to expand their use within companies that license WebSphere Portal, according to company executives.

The NextGen strategy is also aimed at enticing third-party software providers to build applications that run in conjunction with IBM's portal software. By retooling Lotus components based on the popular Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) standard, IBM stands to attract more third-party developers familiar with Java. IBM has signed on about 60 software development partners in the past six months, bringing the number of companies building portlets for WebSphere Portal to 170, according to the company.

IBM's WebSphere Portal is one of the company?s best-selling programs. In 2002, revenue grew by more than 100 percent year over year, according to analysts. A recent survey by market researcher Gartner Dataquest placed IBM first in the portal business, ahead of SAP and BEA Systems.

The goal of Collaboration Center is to allow co-workers to communicate while they are working with a portal application, said Tim Thatcher, program director for ePortal solutions at IBM. Collaboration Center has instant messaging capabilities built into the portal, meaning that people can stay in touch electronically, without switching to a separate IM application, Thatcher said.

Collaboration Center is available as a separate download but will included within the next major version of WebSphere Portal due out this summer at no additional charge, Thatcher said.

In the same time frame, Lotus also intends to introduce an e-mail program and simple text editing and spreadsheet applications that can run within WebSphere Portal.

IBM is also upgrading its development tools portfolio to encourage businesses and third-party application providers to build applications for WebSphere Portal.

Also on Wednesday, Big Blue introduced Application Portlet Builder for Domino, a development tool for creating Web applications that run with Lotus' Domino e-mail server. The Application Portlet Builder is intended to be simpler to use than Domino Designer, which is geared at professional programmers.

IBM has also signed a deal with Bowstreet to resell Bowstreet's Portlet Factory, a development tool targeted at Java developers. IBM is offering Bowstreet's Portlet Factory as a simpler alternative to IBM's WebSphere Studio Java programming tools, Thatcher said.

 

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