IBM Dials up Web 2.0 For Enterprise Portals

With WebSphere refresh, Big Blue continues its campaign to introduce dynamic Web features into business systems.

IBM planned to announce Wednesday that it will bring the latest version of its portal software to the market this quarter -- a release that aims to satisfy what it sees as a growing need for Web 2.0 technologies in the enterprise.

WebSphere Portal 6.1 is a refresh of IBM's (NYSE: IBM) current portal offering, with an added focus on the Web 2.0 features that the company has been loudly heralding as a vital part of its new model for enterprise software.

IBM is not alone in its campaign to introduce corporate IT to Web 2.0. Increasingly, companies such as Microsoft, Oracle and SAP are delving into the enterprise social software market. IBM has been aggressively promoting collaborative Web 2.0 products like Lotus Connections and its Mashup Center, and is now adding similar capabilities to its portal software.

The portal market is a more established business line than enterprise social software, but is still poised for strong growth. In a report published last July, research firm IDC projected that the market would grow to $1.4 billion by 2011, up from $900.8 million in 2006. The study also named IBM as the market leader for five years running.

"It's all about making it much easier to bring in Web-based information into the portal," said Steve Ricketts, program director of IBM's WebSphere portal and workplace Web content management unit.

Ricketts said that in talking with clients since the release of WebSphere 6.0 in September 2006, IBM discovered that they increasingly expected the ability to import any type of Web content to their business portals.

"They don't want to compromise," Ricketts told "They want that very customized, adaptable Web 2.0 type of experience."

WebSphere 6.1 will include a live tagging feature, which will add relevant context to information by mashing it up with data pulled from another source. Clicking on the address of a customer, for instance, might bring up a map with directions.

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