IBM To Partners: Express Yourself

Workplace, the "rich" client that Lotus began discussing last fall, will also get a series of 17 vertical solution add-ons, IBM Software executives said last week. For the SMB crowd, a Workplace Express edition priced at less than $100 per user and targeting companies with 750 to 1,000 users will be available by the end of the month, said Ken Bisconti, vice president of Workplace, portal and collaboration products at IBM.

A new Archive Installer will get Express up and running in less than an hour, said Bisconti, and the installer will be integrated into the broad Workplace 2.5 release. The Express version allows an administrator or manager to drag and drop portlets to customize user views.

The Express lineup is IBM's attempt to recruit and retain an army of loyal solution providers to attack smaller businesses. For enterprise customers, IBM continues to pitch its on- demand hosted applications. Last week the company unveiled an on-demand version of Web Conferencing, hosted exclusively by IBM Global Services.

IBM's services arm is public enemy No. 1 to integrators such as EDS and Accenture, both of which are courted by Microsoft. These integrators and IBM vendor rivals characterize IBM's hosted offerings—and even its complicated WebSphere lineup—primarily as revenue generators for IBM Global Services.

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"Who else can implement IBM software in the enterprise other than IBM? Who is their competitor?" asked one longtime IBM partner who declined to be named. He added that IBM's movement up the software stack is of concern to all ISV partners, although few will address the issue on the record.

Another IBM partner brushed off talk of potential conflict from the Workplace add-ons. "Ultimately, adding to Workplace is a good thing," said Jim Deters, managing partner of Ascendant Technologies, Austin, Texas. "IBM wants partners to take a vertical approach and [the add-ons] foster that."