IBM, AT&T Team On Ready-to-Run Collaboration For SMBs

Workplace Services Express 2.5 is due out in June.

Both companies tout the offering as an "out-of-the-box collaboration solution" with integrated portal and high-speed Internet access.

Developers would like the package because it gets around "the infrastructure issue," said one Midwestern software partner who specializes in collaboration and mail. It will give them all they need to set up quick and easy collaboration, he said.

At the PartnerWorld conference in Las Vegas, IBM also took the wraps off new Workplace solutions, including one for health-care clinicians and one for retail operations. The new solutions are based on the same Workplace Services Express 2.5 infrastructure. IBM executives characterize the solutions as sets of blueprints that VARs and ISVs can leverage to build custom applications. Before the new offerings were added, IBM had 18 Workplace solutions.

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A spokesman for IBM's Lotus arm said AT&T's impending acquisition by SBC Communications won't affect the latest solutions.

A phased U.S. roll out of the joint solution started Monday with a joint pilot program between IBM Business Partners and AT&T Authorized Agents. More partners and agents will be added in stages, according to an IBM spokeswoman. The price of the bundle will vary by user requirements and is set by the local IBM partner and AT&T authorized agent, she said.

With the newest Workplace offerings, IBM continues its battle with Microsoft in the collaboration market. Next week, Microsoft is expected to unveil pricing and availability of its Istanbul instant messaging/VoIP client as well as the connectivity pack that will allow the company's Live Communications Server 2005 to work with America Online and Yahoo instant messaging users.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates; Jeff Raikes, group vice president of Microsoft's Information Worker Business; and Anoop Gupta, corporate vice president of Microsoft's realtime collaboration business unit, will preside over the launch in San Francisco.

IBM and its partisans tout the Java-centric Workplace as a way to offer server-provisioned, secure applications to users. Microsoft promotes the use of its entire software stack--including SharePoint, SQL Server and Live Communications Server--all running on Windows as its collaborative vision.

IBM's standards-based approach appealed to Jon Rood, associate vice president of IT for the University of California at San Francisco, which is rolling out a Workplace-based collaboration strategy campuswide. A big part of the reason UCSF went the IBM route--using IBM hardware, Tivoli systems management and Workplace--is because of IBM's open"standards approach, Rood said. The rollout is still in its design phase, but the potential universe of users is 40,000, he added.