January 31, 2011 / 11:34 PM / 7 years ago

IBM touts social skills on RIM's PlayBook

TORONTO (Reuters) - IBM wants to dislodge Microsoft’s desktop-bound business software by touting an update of its Lotus programs designed to harness the mobility and collaboration possible with cloud computing.

The computing giant invited BlackBerry maker Research In Motion’s co-Chief Executive Jim Balsillie to the stage of Lotusphere, an IBM conference in Orlando, on Monday to display IBM’s newest wares on RIM’s unreleased PlayBook tablet.

Established tech giants and relative upstarts covet opportunities in cloud computing -- using Internet technology to move computers and information away from desktops and into remote data centers. The move to cloud-computing is closely linked to the booming use of smartphones and tablet computers, particularly in offices.

Balsillie demonstrated how a PlayBook user could receive an email from a contact in a Lotus email program and quickly look up his profile in Lotus Connections and invite him into a social network.

IBM’s invitation to RIM was strategic for both companies, said Forrester analyst Ted Schadler. IBM was ahead of Cisco, Google and Microsoft in a shifting market to use cloud-based applications to aid sales, marketing, customer service and product development teams, he said.

IBM “can have their cake and eat it too. They can show solidarity with RIM, and at the same time everyone knows they’re running on iPad,” he said, referring to Apple’s tablet.

The global market for social platforms, which allow customers, employees, business partners and suppliers to collaborate and communicate, is expected to almost triple to $1.8 billion by 2014, according to research company IDC.

IBM said its launch of a cloud-based version of LotusLive Symphony, an office productivity suite, would enable its customers to co-edit documents, spreadsheets and presentations at the same time from multiple locations.

It will be available in the second half of 2011 on RIM and Apple devices as well as Nokia smartphones and devices using Google’s Android operating system.

IBM also refreshed its Lotus Notes email, Connections file-sharing and networking software, and Lotus Sametime instant messaging software.

With the revamp, “IBM is the leading alternative for organizations looking to break free of costly Microsoft Office desktops,” the New York-based company said in a statement.

“IBM is trying to get out from the email war (with Microsoft) and take collaboration ... much deeper into the business with a bigger toolset and deeper ties to business processes,” Forrester’s Schadler said.

For its part, RIM is eager to fan corporate interest in its PlayBook, which many view as a formidable device that could still struggle to make its mark in a sea of iPad look-alikes.

With the April launch of the iPad, Apple virtually created the market for tablets - touchscreen computers halfway between smartphones and laptops. The device is already reaching into corporations where RIM’s BlackBerry has long been the mobile extension of choice.

Google’s Android operating system, which Samsung runs on its Galaxy Tab, won a 22 percent share of the tablet market in the fourth quarter, Strategy Analytics said.

IBM said insurer Zurich Financial’s North America unit uses IBM software on iPads to connect 60,000 mobile workers with email, calendar, contacts and directories.

Its social software for mobile devices is used by General Motors, the University of Zurich and Russian wireless carrier Vimpelcom, among others.

IBM also said it had spent $42 million to expand cloud-computing facilities in Canada to keep confidential information secure within the country to comply with privacy laws.

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