IBM to woo small and medium enterprises

IBM is not known for selling software to small and medium sized businesses. It would like to but, somehow, its stuff always looks a bit daunting and seems to carry the …

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27th January 2008 at 6:33 am

IBM is not known for selling software to small and medium sized businesses. It would like to but, somehow, its stuff always looks a bit daunting and seems to carry the need for clever in-house IT people.

Last Monday, at Lotusphere, the leopard didn’t exactly change its spots but it certainly gave them a good tweak. Along with a raft of announcements for the 7,000 or so enterprise clients who attended the event, it announced its intention to offer something good to organisations of between 5 and 500 users who have little or no internal technical capability.

In a tiny box, Foundations will provide “mail and collaboration platform, file management, directory services, firewall, back-up and recovery, and office productivity tools.” It will be provided by third party software houses who can easily integrate other application packages. Foundations can also be installed on an existing server.

Bluehouse is a suite of collaboration tools, hosted by IBM or a partner, and delivered as an online service which will enable businesses to share contacts, files, project activities and interact with chat and web meetings.

I’m trying to nail IBM down on whether the Bluehouse web service is predicated on ownership of Foundations. While at Lotusphere, I thought not. But, reading the official material later, I find the messages are mixed.

Here’s one: “With Lotus Foundations and Bluehouse, used separately or in combination, organizations will be able to take advantage of proven enterprise-strength software delivered as a turn-key package for start-up businesses without IT staff.”

And here’s another: “This new set of services will extend the Lotus Foundations family by allowing Foundations customers to securely collaborate beyond their organizational boundaries without the need for in-house technical expertise.”

Whichever way you look at it though, both offerings look like a serious attempt by IBM to address the needs of smaller enterprises. And, looking at its general approach to software, I think this is all to the good. Let’s hope it gets cracking quickly and finds a way of serving this new market effectively.

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David Tebbutt is an award-winning columnist and feature writer who specialises on the subject of using software and technology to increase business productivity. He's an analyst with Freeform Dynamics but, in previous lives, wrote for Director magazine, Real Business and was also editor of Personal Computer World. http://freeformdynamics.com

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  1. Martha Hoyt says:

    Hi David,
    I’m the product manager for “Bluehouse” at IBM and I want to clarify a couple of points that your raise.

    IBM is very serious about delivering products and offerings to SMBs that will help them be successful. I’m glad you think we’re doing some interesting things.

    “Bluehouse” is the code name for a future software-as-a-service offering from IBM. It’s organized with Lotus Foundations under an SMB offerings umbrella. There are no pre-requisites between the two offerings at this time. SMBs have diverse IT requirements and “Bluehouse” and Lotus Foundations service different needs. “Bluehouse” is completely hosted by IBM, without any need for in-house IT hardware or expertise. Lotus Foundations assumes on-premise hardware either supplied by the business or by Lotus Foundations. That hardware can be completely supported by Lotus Foundations services, so no IT expertise is required. “Bluehouse” is starting a managed, private beta now. Lotus Foundations is generally available.

    However, there will be synergies between the products to take advantage of. The items that are mentioned in the announcements at Lotusphere are ideas that we’re investigating so that we provide SMBs with more choices. There are no inherent technological impediments to providing a combo on-line/off-line solutions for SMBs, so we’re excited with all the interesting opportunities that are opening up.

    I hope that helps.
    Thanks,
    Martha S. Hoyt
    Senior Product Manager
    “Bluehouse”

  2. On behalf of David who’s on holiday, many thanks for your response and clarification. It’s much appreciated.
    It’s a good time to be an SMB at the moment when it comes to choice and cost effectiveness of IT/software solutions. To see IBM adding to that choice is welcome.

  3. Hi Martha. I know I’m on holiday but I sneaked onto a pc. Thank you so much for your clarification.

  4. […] which will all go out under the LotusLive brand. You may recall that I mentioned the ‘Bluehouse‘ collaborative software last year, this has now been formally named LotusLive […]

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