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IBM rounds up new Workplace partners

Big Blue plans to announce additional software and hardware makers that will use its Workplace client software to deliver their products over corporate networks.

IBM plans to announce on Monday that it has signed up additional software and hardware makers to use its Workplace client software to deliver their products over corporate networks.

Workplace client software, announced earlier this week, is designed to be distributed and accessed through a Web server and to be accessible from systems running Windows, Macintosh, Linux and Unix operating systems, as well as from handheld devices.

On Monday, IBM will announce that Binary Tree, Blue Martini Software, Cisco Systems, Colligo Networks, E-office, Genius Inside, Intellisync, PalmOne, PSC Group, PureEdge Solutions, Relavis, Research In Motion, Symbol Technologies, Synchrony Systems and Wily Technology are working to adapt the software to use with their products.

Earlier this week, IBM said Adobe Systems, PeopleSoft and Siebel Systems were among the companies that had signed up to use the software.

Financial terms of the partnership deals are not being released. IBM said partners will either incorporate Workplace as part of their own software or will offer delivery over Workplace as an option for customers.

The new software, part of IBM's Lotus Workplace strategy, is a bundle that includes e-mail, word processing, spreadsheet and database applications aimed at business users.

Analysts see the Workplace software as a competitive threat to Microsoft, which controls more than 90 percent of the desktop software market.

IBM plans to license the Workplace infrastructure software to partners, which can use it to distribute their own products. The Java-based package also includes server-based management software and software to run productivity applications on handheld devices.

IBM hopes to sway both customers and partners to Workplace software with a few key selling points, including ease of management, mobility and price. Since most of the work takes place on server-based software, Workplace software can be distributed and updated centrally.

"For customers, software costs add up, but labor costs outswamp those costs. Server-managed clients...is a powerful model," said Steve Mills, the head of IBM's software unit.

Mills asserts that customers can save up to 40 percent on maintenance costs, using Workplace versus traditional "fat" client applications like Microsoft Office.

And unlike pure Web applications, the Workplace software is designed to be used offline, so mobile users on laptops or handheld devices can connect, quickly access applications and disconnect to work offline. When they connect, the Workplace software synchronizes their work with server-based applications.

The company plans to charge customers $2 per user per month for access to the software, plus $1 per user, per month, for each IBM application, such as messaging and document management.

IBM plans to make the bulk of its profits from the new plan by selling server-based software, such as its WebSphere application server and Web portal software, needed to make the Workplace applications function, Mills said. Those applications can cost thousands of dollars. The plan reflects IBM's overall strategic plan to sell its profitable server software. "If Microsoft is client-driven, we are server-driven," Mills said.

The company also hopes to sell consulting services through its Global Services unit as well as through IBM's software unit and consulting partners.