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IBM tacks blogs to Workplace

Company will add blogging capabilities to the next version of its collaboration and development software.

IBM plans to add blogging capabilities to the next version of its Workplace collaboration and development software, the company said on Wednesday.

The company offered the details of its blog-related plans as part of a preview into the upgrades that will arrive sometime in August, when the company is expected to release its Workplace 2.5 and Workplace Designer 2.5 offerings. IBM said the addition of the blogs to the collaboration and software development tools is a concession to the growing popularity of the Web pages among its corporate clients.

Ed Brill, business unit executive with IBM's Lotus division, pointed out that the company has had a stake in "social software" for years and said it is now embracing blogging as the medium becomes an increasingly popular and vital tool within its business software customer base.

"The kind of things that people do in blogs today are the sort of things that people have done in Lotus Notes and Domino for years," Brill said. "Where we're seeing the growth in interest is in the internal use of blogging; people are increasingly using it as a conceptual way to communicate within organizations, so we need for it to be part of the platform for both (end users) and designers."

Blogs, the shortened term for Web logs, are most frequently used by corporate workers to share information regarding projects they're working on, according to the company. By adding blogs to Workplace, IBM is simply adding another communication format for workers to use, in particular when developing collaborative applications using Big Blue's Workplace Designer software, company officials said.

IBM promised that the blogging software in its Workplace products, a test version of which has made available on the company's Web site, would also feature a number of tools for archiving and searching for the pages. The blogs themselves will offer functions for adding links to other Web pages, posting comments and forwarding specific documents to other people.

The software will also offer a central point of management for multiple blogs, custom security functions and a tool known as "blogroll" designed to let people share their favorite posts with others. In addition, the products will give customers the ability to create RSS feeds through which they can subscribe to the blogs they follow, IBM said.

In the Workplace Designer package, IBM's blogging tools were built specifically with IT professionals in mind, and they include features aimed at promoting software development issues such as bug tracking and project workflow. The Designer 2.5 system will also provide templates for common types of blogs used in the development process.

Brill, who pens his own blog at IBM, said that the company itself now has over 3,000 internal blogs, many of which are used among people working together on projects in the way he sees its customers using the expanded development software.

"Blogs aren't nearly as structured as other tools, and allow for a more free form way to get to corporate information as opposed to static Web pages or traditional discussion forums," he said. "(Adding blogs) makes sense along with the other tools we have, and helps evolve (collaborative software) from existing document sharing capabilities into something bigger."

IBM has previously added blogging tools to its Lotus Notes and Domino products.