New IBM Model Pushes Platform Equality

In unveiling its server-based software model, the company hopes to lessen enterprises' reliance on desktop applications while easing application management and making platform choice irrelevant.

NEW YORK—IBMs new server-based software model is designed to lessen enterprises reliance on desktop applications while easing application management and making platform choice irrelevant.

In efforts to make that model a reality, the Armonk, N.Y., company has shrunk its core middleware technology to run on devices and other platforms, said IBM officials at an event here last week.

The new model supports the management, provisioning and deployment of business applications and data from a central server to clients ranging from PCs to PDAs, cell phones and shop-floor terminals. Enterprises would get the rich functionality of PC software from applications deployed via the Web, IBM officials said.

The model also extends applications to virtually any client a customer chooses, as the open middleware is designed to support clients running Windows, Unix, Linux and operating systems for wireless and embedded devices such as Symbian OS. Support for Mac OS will be available later this year, officials said.

/zimages/7/28571.gifClick here to read about the Cloudscape database at the heart of IBMs server-based software strategy.

Most of the deliverables in this software model center on IBMs fledgling Lotus Workplace messaging and collaboration suite, including two new Workplace products: Workplace Messaging and Workplace Documents. Both offerings are delivered through Workplaces new rich-client platform built on the Eclipse framework.

The applications will let organizations centrally deploy and manage messaging and document management functions to the most appropriate client or different types of users, while providing a rich-client experience, officials said. Workplace Documents will provide a centralized location for users to create, import, edit and save rich documents, presentations and spreadsheets.

/zimages/7/28571.gifGo under the hood of IBM Workplace in an eWEEK interview with IBMs Ken Bisconti.

In addition, IBM announced Workplace Client Technology, Micro Edition, also known as Workplace Micro Environment Version 5.7. This middleware product is designed to extend enterprise applications to non-PC devices so enterprises, developers and manufacturers can build and configure applications on devices, as well as manage, update and install new services remotely and wirelessly, officials said.

Steve Mills, senior vice president and group executive of IBM Software Group, said, "Were trying to make people more productive and connected to our pervasive computing strategy so they can run our middleware on any device."

Mills said that the client systems of yesterday were monolithic and that they offered rich functionality on the desktop but were stovepiped. The clients of today, he said, tend to be Web front ends that require service-specific programming. But, Mills added, the clients of tomorrow will be managed clients that will be delivered on demand with rich functionality delivered across broad access spectrums.

Stephen OGrady, an analyst at RedMonk LLC, said IBM was taking the first steps toward addressing its customers desktop concerns.

"IBM is essentially aiming to answer several important questions by declining to choose sides," said OGrady in Bath, Maine. "Linux versus Windows? Take your pick. Rich client versus thin client? How about both?"

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