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Wed 26 May 2004 04:00 AM

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IBM takes on Microsoft with Lotus Workplace

IBM has introduced its Lotus Workplace and Workplace Client Technology to the Middle East as it looks to take on Microsoft in the groupware space.

IBM has introduced its Lotus Workplace and Workplace Client Technology to the Middle East as it looks to take on Microsoft in the groupware space. Designed to facilitate data and application access for end users from multiple devices, the thin-client middleware package has been built on the Eclipse open source platform. It comes bundled with a range of software, including Lotus Notes e-mail, WebSphere personalised portal access, WebSphere Everyplace and the Lotus messaging and collaboration suite.

“People want to use many client devices throughout the day —laptops, desktops, PDAs, or mobile phones — to access key information, use business applications and collaborate with co-workers, customers and business partners,” says Bashar Kilani, manager of IBM software business in the Middle East, Egypt & Pakistan. “IBM Lotus Workplace delivers all of this,” he adds.

As IBM Lotus Workplace is platform-independent, it can be used as a hub to deliver a variety of applications that are centrally managed on servers, including those built for Windows, Unix and Linux. Big Blue argues that this ability is essential for forward thinking companies that want to focus on information access from any device and not get caught up in propriety technologies and the problems posed by integrating disparate applications.

“Yesterday, application delivery was about web front ends and immediate deployment. It was also about complex extensions and specific programming models. Tomorrow is about on demand rich functionality via managed clients, and integration across the application spectrum, providing choice and flexibility,” says Uffe Sorenson, IBM Lotus technology group executive for Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA).

In theory, deploying a thin-client architecture can provide cost-savings, as there is no need to purchase and maintain single instances of software on PCs. Also, maintenance and rollouts can be managed centrally, which also cuts costs.

“[Traditional PC] management is labour-intensive and costly. A rollout or upgrade requires manual attention to each machine and can take months or even years depending on the size of the company, which increases the total cost of ownership (TCO) and limits the return on investments (ROI) companies can extract from applications,” says Ambuj Goyal, general manager of IBM Lotus.

Big Blue is also keen to point out that, according to its calculations, the software itself is cheaper than Microsoft’s products. For instance, Kilani says the average price per user per month is US$2 and that this translates into a cost benefit of 40%-50% for larger companies. The Workplace suite also promises savings due to the increased employee productivity it provides through collaboration tools such as integrated instant messaging within e-mail, document sharing and virtual meeting rooms.

“The more we can speed up the human side of the business processes, the more economic benefit is delivered to our customers,” says Steve Mills, IBM senior vice president & software group executive.

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