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IBM signs desktop software partners

Big Blue cuts deals with 100 software companies to use its Workplace desktop software as part of their own applications.

IBM has signed on 100 software companies to use software from its Workplace initiative, a plan to gain ground in desktop software.

The company said Tuesday that these 100 partners, which include application providers, have committed to using the Workplace software in conjunction with their own products. Desktop software company Adobe Systems, supply chain application company i2 Technologies and portal tools maker Bowstreet said they intend to integrate their respective programs with IBM's Workplace.

The Workplace software includes IBM's WebSphere Portal software, as well as desktop software for running productivity applications such as a spreadsheet and text editor. The bundle also includes collaboration software such as instant messaging and Web conference tools.

IBM expects that the number of software companies that intend to use the Workplace software will balloon to more than 1,000 partners in the next 18 months, said Buell Duncan, general manager of IBM's ISV (independent software vendor) and developer relations. Partners are interested in the server-oriented approach of Workplace, which gives them more control over management and security, he said.

The Workplace software can work in conjunction with Microsoft's Office productivity suite. But IBM has made it clear it will try to sell the Workplace package as an alternative to Office in some scenarios.

Duncan said Big Blue's customers complain about having to pay for the full Office suite regardless of whether people actually use all its elements. In many cases, people don't use the full capabilities of applications such as PowerPoint or Excel, IBM executives noted.

"It's not as if everyone in a company has the same image on all their desktops, and that is arguably what the Microsoft Office story is," said Mike Loria, director of channels and product manager at IBM's Lotus division. "With Workplace, (customers) are able to deploy the technology users need."

Training software company SkillSoft is using a training application in IBM's Workplace software to manage its learning materials, according to David Vickery, vice president of alliances and corporate development. The company uses the IBM Lotus Learning Management System, part of Workplace, to keep track of documents and deliver information to desktop PCs.

Adobe also intends to integrate the collaboration tools that are part of Workplace with its document-creation software, according to Adobe. Specifically, Adobe intends to add collaborative review and server-based management of PDF documents by integrating with Workplace, said Harry Vitelli, vice president of business development at Adobe.

"The IBM Workplace client technology and Adobe products will allow customers to manage documents from creation to storage and ultimately, to records management and compliance," Vitelli said.