Panasonic Picks LotusLive, No IBM Partners Necessary

But the deal is a direct sale between IBM Lotus and Panasonic and no IBM Lotus channel partners are involved, a company spokesman confirmed.

The Panasonic announcement is part of the drumbeat of news IBM is releasing leading up to next week's Lotusphere Conference in Orlando, Fla. IBM said Panasonic would be presenting details about the LotusLive deployment at the event.

IBM unveiled the first components of LotusLive at Lotusphere in 2008 and debuted the LotusLive brand at the conference last year. At the time IBM said most LotusLive sales would likely be direct for the immediate future. But IBM Lotus is believed to be developing plans for channel partners to sell the LotusLive services.

As cloud computing evolves and more businesses adopt Software-as-a-Service applications, solution providers have concerns about potentially being cut out of opportunities such as the IBM-Panasonic deal.

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For its part, Panasonic will adopt LotusLive for e-mail, calendaring, contact management, Web conferencing, instant messaging, file sharing and project management, initially making the applications available to 100,000 employees in various departments. Eventually more than 300,000 Panasonic employees and external partners and suppliers will be using the on-demand software on a global basis.

IBM said Panasonic is migrating off Microsoft Exchange and other on-premise applications to adopt LotusLive. A spokesman said Microsoft, Google and Cisco competed for the deal. The adoption of LotusLive is part of a wider globalization effort at Panasonic to unify its brands worldwide.

IBM forecasts the global cloud computing market to grow 28 percent annually to $126 billion by 2012.