IBM Wednesday moved to make its collaboration software more attractive to customers in a increasingly competitive market with the announcement of WebSphere Portal's Collaboration Center, a destination with such perks as instant messaging, Web conferencing, and people finder tools.Enterprise portals let employees, business partners and customers access information, collaborate and communicate across disparate systems in real time via a Web browser.
To accommodate the increasing demand for sharing via portals, IBMhas turned to its Lotus software brand to provide features like corporate white pages, organizational charts, instant messages, team workplaces and virtual meetings.
Armonk, N.Y.'s IBM is considered a leader in the collaboration technology market and competes with Microsoft, Oracle and portal providers such as Plumtree. These companies are adding more functionality to dashboard-view-like portals because customers are asking for the software they buy to be more capable of handling group functions despite the spread of employees over many remote offices.
IBM said the goal of the Collaboration Center is to help companies add value to their global workforce by delivering collaborative portal software to business users. Employees can communicate and share information across offices, regions and lines of businesses in real-time fashion, one of the emerging traits of Big Blue's on-demand e-business push.
As previously reported, users can find colleagues in an organizational directory from anywhere in the portal and contact them immediately. Users can also track all the team workplaces they belong to and participate in online Web conferences using the portal interface.
Three Collaboration Center portlets -- extensions of a portal -- will be added to WebSphere Portal Extend and WebSphere Portal Experience. They will include an online corporate white pages and navigation tool to find employees; My Lotus Team Workplaces (QuickPlace) to create, search and manage multiple worker groups; and Lotus Web Conferencing (Sametime) to let users conduct online meetings. All three portlets come with Lotus Instant Messaging (Sametime).
IBM's portal vision has proved compelling for other software vendors as 46 have signed up to build portlets for WebSphere Portal. Chief among these is Bowstreet, a former Web services software player.
"As portals become a vital extension of business processes, customers need powerful tools to quickly develop portlets for WebSphere Portal," said Michael George, CEO, Bowstreet. "This agreement expands Bowstreet's reach in the market while providing IBM with additional tools to extend WebSphere Portal's competitive advantage."
The Collaboration Center will be available from the WebSphere Portlet Catalog in the second quarter of 2003.