At its annual Lotusphere conference, IBM on Wednesday showed off an early version of Lotus Mashups, a tool designed to let businesspeople, rather than professional programmers, quickly assemble Web applications.
The application will let people combine, or mash up, data from enterprise applications and the Web. It uses a browser-based visual tool and a set of pre-built widgets for displaying information.It is scheduled to be released in the middle of this year.
IBM has been pursuing the idea of giving end users in businesses powerful enough tools to build their own applications.
These Web applications may be relatively simple and only be used for a short time. But IBM executives have said that it represents a significant business opportunity for its Lotus collaboration software division.
For example, a person could build a mashup that combines weather information with a retail management system to adjust inventories based on project weather patterns.
IBM first started with end user-driven software development when it introduced QEDWiki two years ago, a product with a similar goal.
Lotus Mashups will use the QEDWiki technology, which IBM's Emerging Technology group first developed, but it will be a separate commercial product, said Doug Heintzman, director of strategy for IBM's collaboration technologies.
"We want to push the potential of mashups into the business domain," Heintzman said. "We expect to put forward no only catalogs of widgets but catalogs of mashups."
Heintzman said he thought it could be possible that in the future, IT departments will analyze the applications created by end users and "harden" them for broader deployment within companies.
Last year at Lotusphere, IBM introduced other products inspired by Web 2.0-style consumer applications, including Lotus Connections, social-networking software for businesses.
Updated at 9:15 AM PT with comments from IBM. Screen shots added.