IBM-Microsoft co-opetition heats up

IBM-Microsoft co-opetition heats up

IBM has announced a server-based strategy aimed at users of desktop and mobile devices that could raise its long-running co-opetition with Microsoft to another level.

Big Blue formally detailed new messaging and document management capabilities for Workplace Client Technology, the company's middleware suite of desktop applications such as email and team collaboration. The update also features a layer of WebSphere server-based management software and an IBM-developed relational database that allows email and documents to be better managed and more secure, IBM officials said.

The technology allows users to deploy not only server-based applications that facilitate the delivery of information among differing operating environments but also a variety of client operating systems, including Windows, Linux, and eventually the Mac OS.

"Workplace is middleware for the client with a database, a lightweight session control from WebSphere, and desktop applications," senior vice-president of IBM's software group, Steve Mills. said. "It is about connecting business processes and a range of technology that lets users mix and match solutions in a better-managed, more secure way,"

Although Mills did not say IBM would aggressively promote Workplace to Microsoft Office users, some observers contend IBM would not discourage the switch.

"IBM is not positioning this to be confrontational with Microsoft," vice-president at Summit Strategies, Dwight Davis, said. "They are saying that the world exists as it is, dominated by Office, which is a legitimate approach. But IBM runs the risk of appearing to be just another Microsoft trying to own the spectrum of desktop and mobile devices with its own stack.

"After a while, [IBM] might say all [users] need is the level of application functions in Workplace."

Microsoft officials have said they do not believe IBM is trying to escalate the companies' co-opetition to a meaningful applications war, but they have pointed out that the Workplace announcement accentuates the differences underlying each company's desktop approach.

"Looking at things from a macro level, the question is, do you need a rich client or just limited functionality portals to create solutions?" group product manager of Office at Microsoft, Dan Leach. "To me, this is an extension of (IBM's) strategy to convince users to use IBM middleware, servers, and services."

"We have Office 2003, InfoPath, and other XML-capable applications on clients that act as gateways to data sitting on back-end systems."

Based on the Eclipse framework, Lotus Workplace Messaging now offers the rich-client environment typically found in a desktop application. It also includes Lotus Workplace Docments to increase productivity in a collaborative environment. The MicroEdition, which contains scaled-down versions of DB2, MQSeries Everyplace, and Java run-time environments, runs on a wide range of mobile devices.

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