IBM Adds Prefab Blogging to Workplace Designer

Updated: As Lotus Notes continues to lose ground compared with MS Exchange, IBM adds an integrated enterprise collaboration feature to its development tool.

IBM has added a prefab blogging component to the latest version of Workplace Designer, its Eclipse-based development tool.

The company on Wednesday made IBM Workplace Designer 2.5 generally available. The tool, first released as a beta in June, is designed to help developers easily build components to use in composite applications running in the IBM Workplace environment, including Workplace Collaboration Services or Workplace Services Express.

Based on SOA (service-oriented architecture), composite applications are put together from reusable bits and pieces of disparate applications.

They enable the reuse of data to quickly create new processes for partners, suppliers, customers or employees in time-crunch situations such as mergers, acquisitions or product rollouts.

In addition to the Weblog component, Workplace Designer 2.5 is picking up a project management tool, a contact management list and an online discussion forum.

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Workplace Designer can also import forms from existing Lotus Domino applications for use in building new Workplace applications.

Jim Russell, IBMs director of application development tools for Lotus Software, said the Workplace platform is about "enabling the next generation of collaboration through composite application" development.

"You can glue together prebuilt components and customize them," Russell said. "One component is a blog, so when youre building a team space for, say, [public relations] or financial [employees] to get together and execute work they need to do as a team, they can set up a team blog or individual blogs so as to exchange work that way."

The new widgets certainly cant hurt, given IBMs struggle to maintain its place in the market for integrated collaborative environments. Both IDC and Gartner Inc. recently came out with studies showing that Microsoft Corp.s Exchange controls a larger percentage of the market.

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IDCs report found that Microsoft controlled 51 percent of the market in 2004, compared with IBMs 40 percent. The situation is improving for IBM, which grew its market share 5 percent last year and which had three solid quarters more recently, according to Mark Levitt, vice president of collaborative computing for IDC.

Will adding a component for blogging, the collaborative buzzword du jour, help IBM to catch up? Its unlikely, given that enterprises are just on the brink of paying attention to the technology.

"Blogging is a feature corporations are beginning to think they need to do something about," Levitt said, "…[but] Most organizations are taking a passive approach to corporate blogging."

Whats attractive about IBMs packaging is that it promises customers that this new phenomenon of blogging doesnt have to translate into a new enterprise application purchase, Levitt said. Rather, it can be a feature in an existing solution.

"Adding to Workplace or Domino is … a good way to bring blogging to the masses," he said.

Microsoft is planning to include in its Vista Windows client release a common feed list of subscriptions and a common feed store of data that will be available to applications through Windows APIs.

Microsoft plans to let users automatically discover and subscribe to feeds in Internet Explorer 7. That feature is already available in competing browsers, including Mozilla Firefox and Apple Computer Inc.s Safari.

IBM Workplace Designer 2.5 retails for $649 per user. It is downloadable from IBMs Passport Advantage site.

Editors Note: This story was updated with comments regarding Microsofts plans for RSS in upcoming products.

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