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Big Blue's remote equalizer

Big Blue unveils client-server software that aims to give telecommuters the same access to data and applications as office workers.

As more work moves outside of company headquarters to hotel rooms and home offices, off-site employees bear the brunt of laggard connection speeds, expensive dial-up costs, and limited access to corporate information.

However, companies such as IBM (IBM) seek to benefit by leveling the playing field between telecommuters and office-cubicle workers.

The latest in the surge of products to ease off-site stints is IBM's Mobile Equalizer, client-server software that aims to provide a cost-effective way for telecommuters and mobile workers to view data and applications as if they were in their company offices.

Instead of having to begin downloads from scratch when their connections are interrupted, the software allows mobile users to resume downloads where they left off. Mobile Equalizer also allows remote workers to view all the data on their company's server, pick and choose from that information, and then only download the messages or files they need.

For example, a frequent flyer could download necessary applications and information while at the airport, then end his connection to the office before boarding his plane. While meeting with a customer, a sales representative can access the most current data and complete the deal, rather than having to polish it with final numbers from the office.

"With Mobile Equalizer, mobile Notes users can maximize connect times by previewing not only new messages and files but all of their data, and replicating only what they need," said Cliff Reeves, senior director of Lotus's Notes project management.

Also provided with Mobile Equalizer is a toolkit complete with APIs (application programming interfaces), automation scripts, and sample codes, allowing software developers to make any application available to mobile employees.

An upgrade to the product due later in the summer will allow business nomads to program Mobile Equalizer to send a page in response to a particular email message, IBM spokeswoman Nancy Riley said. For instance, if a salesperson is waiting for confirmation from a customer, he or she can flag the software to send a page as soon as that email message comes in.

A beta version of the software will be available in mid-April and the Mobile Equalizer will be available in June.

The software is priced at $4,999 for the server component, plus $299 per user.