IBM to Face Off With Microsoft for SMBs

Big Blue enters the small and mid-sized business market with its WebSphere Portal Express software.

In what looks to be a toe-to-toe face-off with Microsoft Corp., IBM will announce Thursday the first of several software products aimed at small and mid-sized businesses.

Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., offers its SharePoint Portal Server to the SMB market. And through its Business Solutions division, Microsoft also offers business applications to SMBs.

IBM is introducing its WebSphere Portal Express software, designed for simple deployment and simple usage—two key functionality differentiators in the SMB market.

For smaller companies, IBM scaled back its WebSphere Portal software that enables internal and external Web sites for employee, partner and supplier communication.

The idea is that with only a few clicks of the mouse—IBM specifies five clicks—users can customize a page layout, add a new portlet, add a new user or change the portals interface.

Big Blue will also scale back on its pricing to fit the pocketbook of small and mid-sized businesses. While it has not released specific pricing details to date, IBM said it would price on a per-user basis.

The portal offering comes bundled with IBMs Web Application Server and Portal Server and can be deployed on a single server.

Portal Express offers capabilities for portal personalization, campaign management, single sign-on across applications as well as authentication, authorization and communication between portlets.

Portal Express also has the ability to grow with users as their companies grow; portlets used within WebSphere Portal Express are reusable across the WebSphere Portal suite, officials said.

IBM also will announce tomorrow a sister product, WebSphere Portal Express Plus, which includes instant messaging, online chat, group calendaring, task management, document libraries and document-sharing and revision capabilities.