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IBM downsizes Web portal software

The company aims its new software at small and medium-sized businesses by dropping some of the features intended for large corporations and making it easier to install and use.

IBM, looking to cash in on the growing popularity of Web portal software, is turning its attention to smaller businesses.

IBM later this month will ship Web portal server software aimed at small and medium-sized businesses. The products will be less expensive than full-featured software intended for large corporations and are designed to be simple to install and use, IBM executives said. By pointing-and-clicking, businesses can change the layout of a Web page, add new services on the portal or add new users, the company said.

IBM is trying to woo small and midsized companies with the new portal software and with other products expected to debut in the coming months.

Portal software, which allows companies to build internal and external Web sites for employees, customers and business partners, has proven to be a hot seller. Sales grew 59 percent in 2001, with new license revenue totaling $709 million, according to Dataquest, a unit of market researcher Gartner. IBM, which outlined its product plans in May, competes against Microsoft, BEA Systems, Oracle, Sun Microsystems and others in the portal software market.

IBM executives said the new portal product for smaller companies, called WebSphere Portal--Express, comes with IBM's application-server and directory-server software built in. Application server software is used to run Web-based business software that accesses databases and other back-end applications. Directory-server software is technology that serves as a sort of "white pages" of information about computer users and resources.

The portal software can run on one server and supports applications developed using Web services, an emerging way to build software that allows businesses to interact via the Internet.

IBM is selling a second portal software product to small and midsized companies. The WebSphere Portal--Express Plus version will include messaging, online chat, calendars and the ability to share documents online.

The new WebSphere Portal products will be available at the end of October. The WebSphere Portal--Express version will costs $77 per user for use on an internal network. It will cost $30,000 per processor for portals built for customers and business partners accessing portals from outside of a company.

The WebSphere Portal--Express Plus version with the extra messaging features will cost $122 per user for internal corporate use, and $47,820 per processor for outside use.