10 May 2004 IBM is to sell its Lotus office productivity suite as a web-based application managed centrally on a corporate server.
The move, announced in New York today, represents a significant strategic shift away from the client/server model by IBM’s Lotus division.
Customers will license server software as well as cheaper client software that resides on a device.
Most devices, including those running Windows, Unix, Linux and Symbian, will be compatible with the application, although support for Apple Macintosh computers will not be available for several months.
The new approach, which IBM calls the ‘server-managed client model’, will be targeted initially at specialist customers such as call centre operators, which typically have large numbers of users.
Mobile users will be another target market, since it will be possible for people to access the applications and then disconnect and work offline.
The move represents a fresh challenge to Microsoft’s dominant Office system.
IBM said the new service has the backing of some major technology companies including PeopleSoft, Adobe, Siebel Systems and Motorola.
Companies adopting the software would be able to manage thousands of PCs and hand-helds from a centralised location, said IBM, which will help companies move to a more cost-effective, ‘on demand’ way of working.
“Our customers will be able to cut their IT costs because the client middleware will enable then to run their applications on many different types of computers,” says Steve Mills, the head of IBM’s software group.