WebSphere rolls into small business

WebSphere rolls into small business

IBM is aiming squarely at Microsoft to win over small businesses to its portal software based on the WebSphere server platform.

The company is spending this week explaining to Australian customers and partners about the new direction it is taking with its new WebSphere Express and WebSphere Portal Express products. Keith Edwards, manager of WebSphere platform architecture specialists at IBM, said the software would enable small businesses to integrate both external and internal functions into the one application.

"Portal Express is a packaging of portal technologies, supported by our partners. Their role is to provide application enablement. We see a marketplace where most businesses would like to enable anybody, at any time, anywhere, to interact with their business," he said.

Mr Edwards said IBM was hoping to use its extensive range of independent software vendor (ISV) and consultancy partners to implement the software, with particular emphasis on integrating existing software infrastructure.

"For internal management, the focus would be on applications you already have in place," he said. "You can connect to that investment from our portal offering to provide your employee base with a portal environment to access CRM systems, email, and other pieces of information relevant to what you do."

From IBM's own perspective, Mr Edwards said the goal of the product was "to compete with Microsoft" for the small to medium enterprise (SME) user.

"The portal provides a major opportunity for IBM to increase its penetration in SME. It is 62 per cent of our software opportunity. It is a market that is not exactly untapped, but we could see significant growth," he said.

While the Portal Express bundle does include some collaborative services from IBM subsidiary Lotus, Mr Edwards said that he did not expect small business users to base their decision on adopting a portal product on the groupware client they were familiar with, and he would not be directing partners to focus on users of the Lotus Notes application.

"They will not be making Exchange versus Notes the decision," he said.Mr Edwards said that IBM's strategy was "sounder" than Microsoft's, as IBM would not attempt to compete against its partners.

"Our strategy is fundamentally different from Microsoft's strategy, which changed once they crossed the line by buying Great Plains Software," he said. "IBM has no intention to take over any business segment. If you are a business in that space, you have to ask: what will Microsoft do next?"

John Banks, portal and e-commerce manager for IBM Australia and NZ, said that 80 business partners had attended roadshows run by the company during the week, with free training sessions for ISVs and other partners scheduled for next week. He named Actrix and Presence Online among the ISVs expected to drive adoption of IBM's portal offerings in Australia.

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